Growing in Gratitude and Love

Jesus carrying the cross by El GrecoI recently posted about gratitude flowing from the Eucharist. Now, I want to discuss ways to express your gratitude. In my mind, gratitude and love are nearly synonymous. Gratitude for other people naturally flows from agape (selfless) love. If you cannot be grateful for a person, you cannot truly love him or her. Thus, it is also true that if you can be grateful for others, you can begin to love them more deeply.

It is easy for our hearts to harden towards people. Such is our concupiscence I guess. This is especially true of those closest to us. As we get more familiar with people, we take them for granted. Perhaps this even describes our relationship with God! The initial feelings of excitement and giving God the “benefit of the doubt” fade, and we take the great traits of God for granted.

Gratitude is a way to love more deeply, and regain some of that “lost love” for those closest to us.

Gratitude List

One way to be more grateful is to keep a gratitude list. This can be a journal or even just saying a few things you are grateful for at the end of your normal prayers. My wife and I each say five things we are thankful for at the close of our night prayer. I suggest thinking about people, things, and events you are thankful for, as well as traits and actions of God. At first, you may be listing what seem to be mundane things, like a great dinner, God’s mercy, or running into a friend. However, the point of this exercise is that even these mundane things are great blessings!

Express Your Gratitude

We all take people for granted, but it can be painful to work hard for others and be taken for granted. As a teacher, I know my students like me and appreciate me, but rarely do they ever thank me. Many parents experience the same thing. All the hard work and love seems to outnumber the “thanks” that we get from our kids. Of course, rarely do kids get thanked either! We are all guilty.

The first way to express your gratitude is to go out of your way to thank people that normally don’t get thanked. Your pastor, parents, kids, boss, etc, probably work very hard, have to make difficult decisions, and rarely are told that people appreciate them. We naturally shy away from communicating our gratitude to these people, likely because of some perceived embarrassment, or because we are dealing with authority figures. Either way, it is time to get over this fear!

The second point is that the way that we express gratitude matters. The best way to express gratitude is to thank the person, but also explain why you are grateful. This takes a generic and impersonal statement of thanks and turns it into a personal message of appreciation. Here is how it works. Let’s say your priest came and visited your mother in the hospital. Sure, it was part of his job, but maybe he gave up his personal time to do it. You may say “thank you very much for visiting my grandma. Your dedication and compassion are amazing.” Who wouldn’t want to hear such appreciation and praise?

Gratitude, as I mentioned previously, flows from our Thanksgiving, the Eucharist. As it increases, so does love.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is an author, speaker, and small business owner. He started ChurchYear.Net in 2004, along with his brother Jonathan. The site gets over one million visitors a year, and Bennett's writings have appeared in church bulletins, newspapers, and other media.

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