“I never met a bitter person who was thankful. Or a thankful person who was bitter.” —Nick Vujicic
Gratitude is not just a polite obligation ingrained into us by our parents as we learn our manners. It’s a powerful and transformative gift from God, an attitude adjustment we all need multiple times daily.
Focusing on what we can be grateful for in any situation lets us experience our daily reality in a different way. It’s like going from treading water in the ocean waves to scuba diving below the surface and discovering a world of beauty that exists all around us, just out of sight. When we are grateful, we see more deeply into our lives, the world around us, and other people’s hearts, getting past the superficial and circumstantial. We discover hidden treasures that only gratitude can dig up.
Here are five of them.
1.Something in us changes when we are grateful. A sense of gratitude, especially gratitude to God, gives us a peace and contentment that shifts our perspective on our lives. Gratitude is a powerful cure for when you’re irritated with someone or in a bad mood. Reframing our mindset to focus on what we are grateful for in the situation lifts our perspective and attitude. It calms us and helps us see things (and people) in a more positive light.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7
2. Being grateful implies an essential truth: I am not alone. To be grateful means I am grateful to someone else, someone who has impacted me with goodness. I am connected to God and others, and I know it deep inside, no matter how alone I may feel in my daily circumstances.
“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us — and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.” – Thomas Merton
3. I am grateful for what I am given, not for something I have accomplished. Gratitude shows me that I need the help of God and others. I am not self-sufficient, no matter how I may be tempted by pride to see myself as the author of all the good that is in my life or as the sole accomplisher of all my achievements. Gratitude gently reminds my heart that this is not true and that I am loved for who I am, not for what I do.
“If only everyone weak and imperfect like me felt as I do, no one would despair of reaching the heights of love, for Jesus does not ask for glorious deeds. He asks only for self-surrender and for gratitude.” – St. Therese of Lisieux
4. Being grateful means I am free. I am free to be thankful and to see the good around me regardless of any other circumstances in my life. Nothing can stop gratitude. It’s a prayer that breaks chains and allows us to lift our hearts to God no matter what situation we find ourselves in – joyful or sorrowful. Gratitude raises us above current events to be more present to the giver of all gifts.
“Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.” – Henri Nouwen
5. Being grateful builds hope in us. Taking a break for a ‘gratitude adjustment’ during my day often brings a smile to my face. If not always to my face, then at least to my heart. And the smile is the promise of hope. I am loved by God, who reaches into me, into my life, into the world around me, and makes all things work for good. And I can confidently trust that he isn’t going to stop doing that.
“Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence.” – Pope St. John Paul II