We have five big classroom rules in our RISE After School program: Be Respectful, Be Kind, Be Responsible, Be Grateful, Be Honest.
In this season of Thanksgiving, one of those sticks out more than the others.
What does gratitude mean to you? Is there a difference between thankfulness and gratefulness?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines these words as,
Gratitude: an appreciation* of benefits received
Thankful: conscious of benefits received
*(appreciation: understanding worth, importance, value)
Gratitude goes beyond an awareness of what is being done in your favor -- it is a deeper appreciation for what is making a difference in your life. While we may use thankfulness and gratitude interchangeably, the two differ in small ways. Gratitude embodies a greater depth than what is defined as thankfulness.
When we encounter situations that merit thankfulness, let us go beyond a consciousness of what is happening and dwell on our appreciation. We can picture our hearts as sponges, soaking up whatever we dwell on most. If we dwell on negativity, our hearts soak up bitterness, apathy, and selfishness. In the same way with gratitude, I believe that when we dwell on appreciation, we can develop grateful hearts.
When looking into the science of gratitude, I read through countless studies suggesting that grateful people are happier, more satisfied with their lives, less materialistic, and less likely to suffer from burnout. Some studies suggest grateful people are noticeably healthier, both physically and mentally, and that individuals live longer when they are able to focus on what they are grateful for. I also read about the myriad of social benefits that come from being a grateful person, from having stronger close relationships to transforming work environments into more positive atmospheres.
We need not emphasize gratefulness to the extent of shame, defining ourselves as bad people that are not grateful for anything. Instead, we should gracefully challenge ourselves to take small steps to embrace gratitude. Have grace for yourself as you work through the tendencies to passively go about life. Choosing gratitude can be more difficult than we often expect.
Gratefulness can be best applied in our lives if we decide to live out what we are hoping to adopt.
John F. Kennedy once said,
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
How do we live out gratitude? Intentionality. Some keep gratitude journals, challenging themselves to think of something they are grateful for each day. Others share what they are grateful for prior to eating a meal. You can practice showing gratitude by returning kindness to someone. Our staff here at SSYO is in regular practice of thanking God for the blessings He’s given us each time we pray. How you want to implement gratitude in your life is up to you!
This season provides space for reflecting on the blessings in our lives. As we move into the holidays and the new year, let’s pursue gratitude beyond the Thanksgiving table.