More Than Thank You

Developing Gratitude

A Short Story

Recently James saw a beautiful sunset, but didn’t pay  attention. Alicia thought the fall leaves were lovely, but said nothing. Michael at 70 took his excellent health for granted.  Mary knew her friend Jane needed help, but didn’t lend a hand. Even though Jane gave  her a  ride home a few days ago.

It’s reasonable to think that James, Alicia, Michael, and Mary do not appreciate their good fortune. But only Mary behaved ungratefully. She  received help from a friend, but  didn’t repay the favor when she had the chance. If that is typical, her friends probably think she is an ungrateful. But no one will think that James, Alicia, and Michael  are ungrateful, just because they ignore beautiful sunsets, fall leaves, or good health.

Gratitude Journals

Gratitude journals are all  rage these days. We’re asked to take note of  good health, pretty sights, and kindnesses to others. And I think it’s good to be appreciative of all that life has to offer. But the kind, thoughtful, and helpful actions of others are special, and  much more than just appreciation. If you do something  nice or helpful to me, given the opportunity,  shouldn’t I help you too? Not just say thank you. That’s the essence of gratitude, and how it is different from simple appreciation.

What’s So Nice About Gratitude

Gratitude builds and strengthens connections between people !  You do something nice for me, and I respond by helping you. Not in some “tit for tat” way, but because I genuinely want to. As a result, you feel good about me, and in the future when I need help , you  probably offer it. What a lovely upward spiral of positive connections.

It’s good to appreciate all the good things that happen to us.  The beautiful sights and the good fortune that comes our way. But it’s even better to be truly grateful. And to express  gratitude not just in words but in deeds, and to enjoy improving someone else’s life.

And that, I think, is the essence of gratitude. Do you agree?

  1. I can’t agree more. Sometimes I even think that the line between appreciation and gratitude is blurred on purpose as the latter requires us to leave our comfort zone think about how to please others rather than telling ourselves continuously how lucky we are 🙂

  2. Thanks for posting, Ayse. I just looked up “gratitude” in psychologytoday.com and the first line reads as follows: “Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has…” I suppose that the phrase could equally well have been written: “Appreciation is an emotion expressing gratitude for what one has…” However, as you nicely put it, this way of thinking completely misses the idea of going out of your way to do something nice or helpful for someone who has benefited us in some significant way.

    • Expressing gratitude by way of our actions is the best way to build connections between people. We feel compelled to do for others who willingly and intentionally does something or gives us something that is of importance.

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