Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's "Grateful"?

I got to thinking about the word "grateful" this morning. Most everyone uses it. "We're so grateful for this," or "I'm so grateful for you." I'm not sure I have a grasp of what this word means. Does it essentially mean the same thing for everyone? Should it? If not, how does that affect how we communicate? What does it mean to be grateful? Is there an action required here? Is it a mere emotion, attitude or state of being similar to boredom, anxiety, curiosity, giddiness, etc.? When you are grateful for something or someone, who are you grateful to? To the person who brought you whatever thing you are grateful for? To yourself for identifying and accepting the thing into your life? To your god? Can you define/explain/express gratitude without bringing religion into it? I am particularly interested in this last question.

So, what do YOU think? Anyone have any insight? I know we all have an opinion. While I keep "insight" and "opinions" distinctly separate, I have a strong interest in both!


  1. I know whenever I hear "grateful" being used most people are using it in reference to God or Jesus. This is always somewhat aggravating to me, because it always appears to me that they are not taking any personal responsibility for the things in their life, like perhaps instead of being grateful to God for their job, maybe they should be proud that they earned and worked for that position. But is pride a sin? Is it blasphemous to think that way? Or, on the opposite, instead of bothering God for every little thing, like thanking/praying to Jesus there's raisins for my oatmeal this morning, there are people out there with real problems, like cancer, so leave the dude alone for more important things!

    But that's just my opinion on the outside. It's a very interesting question. There are definitely things I feel grateful for in my life, but I don't think I'm grateful to the object or event, or even necessarily to God. There are people I feel grateful for, so very thankful they are in my life, but am I thankful to that person or to God? Maybe the life-force of the universe? Fate? Maybe just acknowledging or recognizing that you feel grateful and counting your blessings is enough? Does it need to have a direction? I'm not sure. Makes me think a lot about where I am directing my thanks and gratefulness in my life, and I am very surprised to report that I am not sure.

    Are you thinking of this because of Eat, Pray, Love? Because damned if that book hasn’t been making me think of a lot of things more in depth lately. Especially about the psychology of Religion and Theology. Why people believe what they do and how. Is it their brains providing a survival/coping mechanism? Hmm.

  2. Yoy, I feel the same way. I don't think pride is a sin. I think acknowledging yourself and good decisions is important. Not to mention acknowledging others. I so often see people thanking god that their loved one made it out of the hospital after some injury or illness. But how about thanking the hospital staff? I never see that!

    I just don't believe in a god that interacts with our lives, causes good or bad things to happen, guides us or plans for us. Why would I believe that? I believe in free will. And those two ideas cannot coexist. Many people think they can and create faulty logic as to how they do. But they're just flat out wrong! You cannot have free will and predetermination. Look it up! What people describe when they say you can, is an altered version of free will that should be called something else entirely.

    I like the idea that acknowledging or recognizing gratitude is enough. I hope it is. But I think many people have a direction... something they aim their gratitude at.

    I only thought of this because someone posted something about, "I'm so grateful for ___" and it made me wonder, "Well, who are you grateful to for that ___?"

    And absolutely, unequivocally, YES! I do believe that people believe what they do because their brains need a survival/coping mechanism for the stress that comes from the unanswered questions in life. Also the cognitive dissonance that comes from learning something new about the world that challenges our beliefs. People have made up gods since as far back as we know about. That doesn't prove the existence of God or Yahweh or Zeus or whoever because the popular always god changes. It just proves our need for it and the answers it brings. When it comes to religion, I wish people could move closer to the the attitude: "I believe this to be true, but that's only my personal truth, not a universal truth, and I can respect your thoughts on the matter because they are just as arbitrary and valid as mine." How many wars would have been prevented if this attitude prevailed? All of them, perhaps.

  3. I wake up an see Addison smile and I think to myself how grateful I am to have had the moment with her. I'm grateful that "I" was present (actually there in the moment body and mind)to see it, feel it's effect on me and enjoy it. I would have to say I don't thank god when I'm grateful. i usally thank a person be it myself or someone who has done a kind or even not kind gesture to me. I'm grateful about the unkind gesture cause I usally learn something from it.