We Often use gratitude and thankfulness interchangeably. And it is easy to see why. They both have similar characteristics. You can feel both. Express both. Share both. In many ways both show appreciation. But I think there are a couple of key differences.
First, I think gratitude affects us on a much deeper level. If we live in a dry part of the country and it finally rains after a week, we are thankful for the rain. But when it finally rains after three months, we are overcome with gratitude. When you are under the weather and someone brings you chicken noodle soup you are thankful. You may bake them a cake in response when you are well. But, if you have a heart attack and a team of doctors save your life, you are filled with gratitude. A cake seems a little insufficient to show your appreciation, amiright? When words of thanks or simple acts are just not enough, and we are moved to tears . . .that’s when we are overwhelmed by gratitude. Do we still show our thanks? Absolutely. But we feel it so much more.
Your co-worker grabs you a grande chai latte on the way to the office while they are grabbing one for themself. - Thankfulness.
Your friend takes the day off, brings you a chai latte to your home, where she sits with you for three hours as you ugly cry because you lost your job. - Gratitude.
Next, if gratitude is a feeling then thankfulness is the act. When someone does something kind to you, you feel grateful for them, and you offer your thanks as an action. You can still feel both. But you act out of that gratitude by showing thanks. Gratitude is acknowledging the goodness we have. Appreciating what we have or have been given, or what’s been done for us. The stranger holds the door for you because your arms are laden with bags, (because two trips are for sissy’s) you show your gratitude by saying thank you. Simple, right? Here’s where it gets tricky . . . I think it’s possible to show thankfulness without feeling grateful. How many times have we told a stubborn child to say thank you? And, I have been “thankful” for many a tacky Christmas gift over the years. You can fake thankfulness. You cannot fake gratitude.
Both of them are important. The world needs both. We need both. It’s important to feel. And to show. How sad would the world be if we felt grateful but never showed it. And how equally sad, if w
e showed it but never felt it.
My wish this holiday season is that we would all recognize the many reasons we have to be grateful, large and small, and that that gratitude would overwhelm our souls to the point that our only response is to pour out thankfulness on a weary world. That is Thanks-Giving.
“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”
-Henri Frederic Amiel
Founder. So. BELL & Co.