This week we'll sit around a table and share what we're thankful for. We'll say thank you for the blessings in our life, and we'll feel warm and loved and good. We'll realize how overwhelmingly blessed we are, and we'll determine to maintain this posture for the rest of the year.
We'll happily take it all in; this full day of thankfulness, and we won't argue or push back or suggest that maybe we don't deserve it.
What if we just said thank you more often, and stayed in a place of thankfulness?
What if the posture of our hearts was always bent towards being grateful?
What if we practiced true gratitude every day, not just in November?
The words thankful, gratitude, and grateful are often used interchangeably, but they each mean very different things. When we put it all together, we see a beautiful posture for responding well to blessings and gifts.
thank•ful : pleased and relieved / expressing gratitude and relief
grate•ful : feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness / thankful / received or experienced with gratitude / welcome
grat•i•tude : the quality of being thankful / readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
Do you see it? Thankfulness is our response, our relief experienced out of someone else's blessing over us. Gratefulness is the emotion after thankfulness that drives us to want to pay the act of kindness we just received forward to someone else. Gratitude is our readiness to respond out of our gratefulness. It is what makes us want to continue the cycle of blessing others, not because we want to even the score, but because our grateful hearts want other people to experience what we just did.
We experience all, but all too often we jump straight to the response part. We do it not out of a state of gratefulness, but a state of apprehension that we didn't deserve the gift.
When someone gives me a gift, I immediately think of what I need to do for them in return. I add "Write a thank you note" to my to do list and make a mental note of their generosity. When someone compliments me, my first reaction is to reject it, to ignore it, or to change the subject and focus to something else. When someone does something helpful for me I immediately think of how I can pay them back.
I cannot simply accept someone's act of kindness, someone's gift, or someone's thoughtful words. I am thankful yes, but I am also uncomfortable and cannot show true gratitude for the gift because I try to compensate for it and earn it.
We live in a society where we cannot simply receive blessing without doing anything in return. Everything must be even and fair. And yet the act of receiving fully, without compensating or earning, blesses the very person who is trying to give to us in and of itself.
When we are quick to respond, quick to jump from "thank you" to the response of gratitude, we cheapen the blessing or gift we just received. We do not allow the giver to fully experiencing giving, because we are determined to make it even. We do not allow them to fully bless us, nor can we fully receive the blessing, because we are more concerned with things being fair.
May our gratitude come from a true place of gratefulness, and not from a posture of trying to earn what has already been freely given to us.
Happy Thanksgiving eve, xoxo.