The Definition of Gratitude

We often interchange the words “thankfulness” and “gratitude”. And while they are related in definition, if we look closer, we can see a few differences.

Both words are adjectives that describe, in part, our emotional state of being or feeling. Thankful is to “feel pleased and relieved” and grateful is “feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness.” Similar definitions – both relate to positive feelings about things that have happened. However, if you keep reading about  gratefulness you’ll find it is: “related to appreciation, acknowledgement, recognition, realization, awareness and consciousness.”

Thankfulness seems to be directly related to what we get. I’m thankful I made it to the gas station, or that someone gave me flowers. I’m thankful traffic wasn’t so bad I got home in time to go running. It’s almost like at its core thankfulness is inward focused.

In contrast gratitude seems to be, by definition, outward focused. Being appreciative of the kindness of others. A consciousness of gifts given to you. An acknowledgment of benefits. Gratefulness comes when we are tuned in to those around us and conscious of their impact on our lives. It increases when we recognize the things done for us. Gratefulness rises up in the absence of entitlement. Gratefulness comes with empathy. In essence gratefulness says, “I see you; I understand, and I’m going to respond to that understanding.”

Thankfulness can be easy.  Gratitude is cultivated. But what a harvest we would reap in our families and neighborhoods if we really began planting seeds of gratitude. Perhaps this holiday season, we all should endeavor to shift beyond thankfulness to deep gratitude.

Written by: GROW Staff