What is gratitude?
It is an attitude of thankfulness and/or appreciation. Gratitude can easily be confused with feeling a sense of relief, but true gratitude accepts that each experience in life is given as a learning opportunity, and never as a reward or punishment from God. The Universal Intelligence knows how we feel before we even think it, so God doesn’t mind if we miss an opportunity to say thank you. Saying grace before a meal is a fine practice, but if it’s used as a protection against the wrath of God, then gratitude is not the real motive – fear is the real motive – and God knows it.
There’s a lot of hype out there about the importance of feeling grateful and expressing our gratitude, but it’s getting so that we can feel pressured into saying thank you for every little thing. This goes completely against the spirit of gratitude. There’s a world of difference between truly feeling thankful, and saying thank you merely because it’s expected. Besides, expressing our gratitude is not a protection against having negative life experiences.
It’s well and good to express our thankfulness, so long as it doesn’t become excessive or obsessive; but unfortunately it can, and it does – and that’s not healthy. There’s a world of difference between helping to provide for those in need as a matter of compassion and social responsibility, rather than as a public display of appreciation that we ourselves don’t need help, or as a protection against experiencing the same fate. It’s our attitude that counts; it’s our attitude that is heard by the Universal Intelligence. We can fool people, but we can’t fool God.
Thanking God for loving us is a concept borne of fearing divine punishment for taking things for granted, for not being grateful. The fear is that God will think we feel entitled, and that it’s a short step from there to hell. This sort of fear can stem from our caregivers requiring our gratitude for their having provided us with the basic necessities of life. Are we supposed to thank them for choosing to have children, and then for enabling us to stay alive? It’s like an interviewee thanking a reporter for interviewing them – they’re just doing their job.
Another aspect of gratitude to consider is this: We praise God when things go our way and assume that we must have done something right, but what happens when things go wrong? Do we assume that God has judged us as unworthy, or that he is punishing us, or that he likes our opponent or enemy more than he likes us?
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Someone at a place of work threw a surprise birthday for the boss. The guest of honour had specifically asked that there be no party, as he feels uncomfortable in such situations. At the party, the hostess proudly announced that she had decided that the boss really did want a party after all and so took it upon herself to organize it. She then waited for his expressions of thanks and gratitude and was offended (really offended!) when he said, once again, that he had not wanted a party.
What are your thoughts on this?
- Was the employee wrong to have arranged the party?
- Was the boss wrong to have shared his request?
- Was the boss mean for not just playing along?