On the surface, gratitude may seem to be a gesture of politeness. A positive reaction to an act of kindness. However, it's deeply rooted in our very being.
In good times it can be easier to be grateful. When there are lots of good things going on, there are lots of things to be grateful for. Gratitude is more than just a feeling though; it can also be an attitude towards our entire lives.
There is a big difference between feeling grateful and being grateful. A feeling may be fleeting, a brief moment in time, a very good moment though it may be, it soon can pass. A feeling of gratitude is a natural response to a particular situation when good things happen to an individual.
If we see gratitude as an attitude, a chosen posture towards life, we will start putting gratitude at the heart of everything we do.
Brother David Steindl-Rast said:
Times that challenge us physically and emotionally may make it impossible for us to feel gratitude, yet we can decide to live gratefully, courageously open to life in all its fullness, we don't just feel, we begin to feel the gratefulness that we live.
When we adopt an attitude of gratitude, we see everything as a gift, life itself is a gift. We often take our lives for granted; it often takes a journey from 'The Kingdom of the Night' from a dark place to one of light. I know from my own experience that I took my life for granted until I had a life-threatening accident that put me in a coma for 8 weeks and left me in a wheelchair. Since then, I have realised how fortunate I am to be alive! My life has changed dramatically; not just physically but also psychologically as I now try to live my life from a grateful perspective.
Elie Wiesel, who coined the phrase 'The Kingdom of the Night', survived the death camps of Auschwitz, a place darker than most of us can even imagine.
He talked about disconnecting our attitude from our circumstances:
Right after the war I went around telling people, 'Thank you for just living, for being human.' To this day the words that come most frequently from my lips are 'Thank you'. When someone doesn't have gratitude, something is missing from his or her humanity. A person can be defined by their attitude towards gratitude.
If we search for gratitude in every situation, we are able to free our minds and see opportunities for appreciation in even the worst situations. It will help us to transform adversity into opportunity! This attitude gives us psychic maneuverability, giving us the power to control how we react to any situation. We will become less defensive and more open to life.
A grateful posture towards life enables us to see how it is tested and strengthened through adversity. Grateful feelings not only follow when good things happen. Grateful attitudes also precede goodness.
If we are not already grateful when the challenges arise, they will be more difficult to deal with. Gratitude can transcend circumstance. An adoption of such a grateful stance is relatively immune from fortune and misfortune and the trials and tribulations that we face deepens our gratitude.
A predisposition towards gratitude helps us to see good in every situation. It is a mature adaptation that replaces bitterness and resentment with gratitude and acceptance. Self-destructive emotions are transformed into positive healing ones.
Gratitude also allows growth; grateful people heal from past wounds and look forward to the future with a fresh affirmation towards life.
So, let's not only feel grateful but be grateful! When we see gratitude as more than feeling and allow it to shape our entire perspective on life, we will be stronger, happier, better humans!