“Coming from a place of gratitude” is such bumper sticker wisdom. I’m searching for real gratitude.
Don’t get me wrong, being grateful for your life — your friends, loved ones, the food on the table — that’s fantastic and we should all say “thank you” more often.
But half the time it seems the thing we call gratitude is self-serving. We say “thank you” so we can feel better about how nice we are. We say “you’re welcome” in return, accepting the thanks like it’s deserved.
True gratitude is humble. It has no pretense. It doesn’t require sacrificial action along with the expectation of praise. Its intentions are pure. It acknowledges its privilege, but doesn’t gloat. It sees those less privileged and it endeavors to share the bounty.
Clearly not all acts of gratitude are equal. I’ll give you a linguistic example.
In Spanish or English, you say “gracias” or “thank you.” Simple enough. But the response to that gratitude is miles apart. In English you say “you’re welcome”, aka I deserved that thank you and I’m taking it. In Spanish you say “de nada” which means “it’s nothing,” aka no thanks are needed, of course I would do that for you.
These are just words, and when it comes to common phrases words don’t necessarily define the intentions of a speaker. But those responses do show a fairly obvious contrast in styles of gratitude.
One response sets up a series of expectations, while the other is unquestioning kindness. One focuses on me, the other focuses on we. One is about ego, and the other is humble.
I know beautiful people with kind, giving spirits who would do anything for those they love, with no expectations. I also know people who get bent out of shape if someone does not respond immediately in kind.
I suspect most of us are somewhere in between — trying to be good to others, but sometimes feeling under-appreciated.
The goal of all this isn’t to give-give-give while everyone walks all over you. Like most things in life, it’s way more complex than that.
Let’s all try it in the coming days: do something nice for someone, tell them you love them, wish them well, but don’t immediately, impatiently, wait for a pat on the back. If and when you do get that pat, pat them back. If you never get it, move along and be nice to someone else. That simple.
Practice true gratitude.
Practice being humble.