Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues,
but the parent of all the others. ~ Cicero

There are no rules; no laws concerning Gratitude. If you haven’t developed it or don’t use it enough, you won’t get a ticket; be judged guilty; get sent to jail. You won’t lose your job or the respect of your colleagues either…for you’ve made it a rule to say: ‘thank-you’ and everyone seems quite satisfied with that.  But let’s not fool ourselves: saying ‘thank-you’ is not the same as being grateful.  Not at all.

Gratitude is more foundational and much more profound than the simple act of saying ‘thank-you’. It doesn’t come with a guidebook. It doesn’t have a list of protocols about how or when to feel it or the degree to which I should express it. It is not at all interested in getting my attention. I don’t mean to suggest it’s cold; it has the loveliest warmth, and brings comfort in a way that nothing or no one else can. The only rule it seems to have is that I must be the one to go over and get it; it cannot or will not come by to find me. I’d have thought it would get tired of me coming and going; coming and going all day long and quietly toddle off; but we’ve spent such a long time together, it probably feels as at home with me as I do with it.
The thing that’s best about Gratitude is that it’s completely and utterly magical, for it creates happiness (or as the old (2400 years) quote above says: “is the parent of……”). Many people think the reverse is true: that happiness creates Gratitude, but when I ask them if they can always create happiness and they say: “no”; and then I ask them if they can always create Gratitude and they say: “yes”; well, all I can say is that once the shock of finding that out fades, they are thrilled with this discovery.  After that, when I add that no matter where I am, or what’s happened to me, I can always find something real to be grateful for; and I’ve never been able to do that with happiness; and what’s more, I’ve never known anyone who can…you’d think I’d given them the gift of a lifetime.  I’ve met people who seemingly have everything, but they are ungrateful and miserable; and I’ve met people who seemingly have nothing, but they are grateful and happy.  You get to pick.  

Luckily, no rules exist regarding the right or wrong reasons for Gratitude. What fills you with gratefulness might make me squirm; how I get that lovely warm feeling could cause you to roll your eyes and shake your head. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Well; that’s Gratitude for you.

Penny Steen

1 comment

  1. Lovely sentiments. I have a dear friend, whom I met ~ 10 years ago when we were in a local community theatre event together. He was going through is second divorce and was quite angry and bitter. Sometimes when he got riled up, he would get so mad his face would literally turn red. Then he joined a men’s group and started talking with others about his life. Then he started to go to church and he was around people who helped him expand his thinking about others and not focus so much on himself. Then he started a blog and began to write about all of the blessings in his life. I tell you truly, my friend is a changed person today. And when you ask him about his incredible journey, he will unreservedly say that it is an attitude of gratitude that helped him become calmer, kinder and gentler with both himself and others. It is a wonderful story and one I often reflect on when I realize I need to stop and count the many blessings in my life.

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