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The Two Kinds of Gratitude

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How grateful are you for what you have? How about for what you can give? Let’s look at the tremendous benefits of an attitude of gratitude for your life and others.

The two kinds of gratitude

Can gratitude be good or bad, right or wrong, real or fake, true or untrue? As with most things in life, it depends on the person and circumstances. Let’s focus on the healthy side of gratitude and not waste time on its misuse. Gratitude comes from many places, such as the head, heart, others, spirituality, good or bad health, and from what you get or give, to name a few. Gratitude can also be little or much, such as when it overflows our hearts. Then there are the cousins to gratitude — thankfulness, gratefulness, pleasingness, and appreciativeness. Their impact on our lives can be magnificent. And what about the results of gratitude — happiness, cheerfulness, joy, peace, positive emotions, and attitude? They fill our lives with so much good.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.” Melody Beattie (1948-present)

There is a great deal to consider when you use the word gratitude. Its effects penetrate the very depth and breadth of our souls. There are few words in the English language as pleasing or pleasant. Words of wisdom written by poet Edwin Arlington Robinson prompted me to think about gratitude differently. Although he died nearly a century ago, his words ring true to the deepest part of my being.

“Two kinds of gratitude: The sudden kind we feel for what we take [get or receive]; the larger kind we feel for what we give.” Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935)

Although I do not know Robinson’s original intent, I believe he penned these words from a deep understanding of gratitude. By the way, I use get, take, and receive interchangeably throughout this article. While we can feel gratitude for getting something, it is from what we receive that we can give. Giving creates a more significant type of gratitude. Gratitude from getting can be short-lived, while gratitude from giving is usually long-lasting. What are some of the more important things we take and give? I can think of nothing more meaningful than getting and returning love to someone. Whether it is for your spouse, children, parents, or God, can you imagine anything more significant? We receive their love willingly with arms wide open and give love back to them. Getting and giving love is a true blessing! There is no greater satisfaction than to express your love to another. Again, realize that giving first requires receiving. You can’t give what you don’t have, after all! Being grateful for what you get from life and others builds the foundation for becoming even more grateful and giving. We are not talking about taking something out of greed but being given something from another person’s free will and desire to give. Life becomes worth living when you approach it from the perspective that what you are thankful for getting, you can give with even greater gratitude.

Making it real

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) Consider some of the good in your life for a few minutes each day. Think about the things for which you are grateful. Your life can only improve when you make these gratitude minutes a habit. Look at it as filling your gratitude tank that fuels positivity. Never allow it to run low or empty. Besides making gratitude a daily habit, one of the best things you can do is to speak it out loud. Yes, say what you are grateful for, even when alone. There is something about the power of speaking aloud. When the words come out of your mouth, they become more concrete, more real than only thinking them. You can take speaking what you are grateful for to the next level by expressing it to someone else. When I express gratitude for something specific to my wife or someone in my family, it takes on a far deeper meaning with more impact. We have so much to be thankful for in life. Some of the many things I am grateful for include my life, my belief in Christ, my wife and her love, a roof over my head, transportation, work, rest and relaxation, family, friends, time to write, and many others.

“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands…” David Steindl-Rast (1920-present)

Final thoughts

I realize not everyone is experiencing happiness at this time. Some have great difficulties, are isolated, are depressed, or have experienced a tragic loss. If you can find one thing to be grateful for, you can escape the sadness for a moment. Sadness and gratitude cannot exist at the same time in our hearts.

“The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time.” Douglas Wood (1951-present)

Find just one thing, then a second. When you find two, you will find more for which you can be grateful. Expressing gratitude can put your life on an entirely new course. When you get to the point where you can give, gratitude grows exponentially. It is through giving that the best things in life come to us. I leave you with a question to ask yourself in your quiet time. “What can I give that will increase my gratitude in life?” Imagine the joy you will find through giving and being thankful!

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