On this day that has been set aside as an official federal holiday, it’s good to take a few moments to reflect upon the concepts of thankfulness and gratitude. First of all, I feel thankful that I was born and raised in the United States. I had absolutely no say-so in this, it was a fluke of good luck. Sometimes I close my eyes and ponder how unique and challenging my life-path has been, I feel gratitude.
Most of us more or less use the words thankfulness and gratitude interchangeably. However, there are slight differences between the two concepts.
Thankfulness is what we think and how we behave in response to what someone or something has done for us. Perhaps you received a pay raise at work. This has helped ease your financial burden. This is certainly something to be thankful for. Or to use the example of where I was born, that and the circumstances that occured during my life are things to be thankful for. Being thankful regards acknowledging appreciation for something that has been given to us.
Meantime, gratitude is a virtuous state of mind regarding appreciation for what we already have and not what we wanted. Gratitude is a character attribute that we cultivate and practice in response to living our lives. Gratitude is a virtue that we integrate into our lifestyles. One can feel grateful for being alive and being able to interact with the world. Or one can feel gratitude for a friend who always follows through on his promises. This is a subtle shift in emotional depth from thankfulness.
It is common for thankfulness and gratitude to coexist at the same moment. I can be thankful for having had a parent who gave birth and provided for my childhood needs. At the same time I can be grateful for the care, guidance, and love that was freely given by her. In another sense, I’m thankful to be alive, and I’m grateful to be able to discover my own, unique meaning in life.
It’s good to ponder thankfulness and gratitude on Thanksgiving Day. I’m thankful that it is an official holiday.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ancient Roman philosopher, scholar, skeptic, and statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero. “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”