So many times a day we say “thank you” out of nothing more than common courtesy at best or, at worst, out of habit, with no realization that we even said it. Thus, saying “thank you” is actually the least impactful part of being grateful. My spiritual director will often instruct me to “sit with a feeling”—not judge it or rationalize it, but instead just “sit with it” so I really feel it. What does real gratitude feel like? Here are the ingredients I can almost taste when I take the time to feel truly grateful.
First we taste two cups of humility. True gratitude instantly puts me in a place of realizing I am dependent on another. Whatever I have just received—whether it was a cup of coffee, a borrowed pen, or the deepest desire of my heart—someone beyond myself has just positively impacted me and made my life better. A western cultural mentality promotes the thinking that we somehow deserve whatever we have received, especially if money was involved. There is even a prosperity theology out there that asserts wealth is a blessing God bestows on some and not others. Don’t fall for it. God’s blessing comes in the way of life and love and is freely given to all. If you think money can take the place of your dependence on others, you are cheating yourself out of recognizing our interdependence and experiencing the humility true gratitude brings.
The second cup of humility in my recipe for gratitude comes from the Ignatian mantra that God is in all things. The enormity of God’s presence is easy to feel standing next to the vast ocean or staring up at a sky with a million stars, but even when I am heartbroken or scared, on the craziest of days or just standing in line at the department store, the moment that I reach for sincere gratitude I am bowled over by the enormity of God’s love and graciousness in my life. How is it that with all my faults and failings, one mere creature of the billions on this earth, the God of all, the Creator of all, longs for me? How is it I have come to have this moment? True gratitude affirms the paradox of our smallness and God’s grandeur.
Sitting in gratitude I can also taste a cup of relief. If you say “thank you,” but you don’t feel just a bit of weight lift off your shoulders or anxiety dissipate from your mind, chances are you aren’t really experiencing gratitude. Naming the concern or need that has just been alleviated instantly stirs the gratitude pot.
Finally, experiencing true gratitude always brings a taste of hope. Receiving is empowering. It allows you to take that next step down the road, to look to the future, and to keep going even when the road is hard. A barrier has been removed or a reinforcement has arrived, even if only in the form of smile from another.
Sitting in gratitude to experience this humility, relief, and hope need not take an extended hour of meditation. In mere seconds of awareness I can feel these ingredients all wash over me. St. Ignatius encourages us to begin and end all things with gratitude. Thus, when I say, “thank you” for taking the time to read this blog post and reflect on your own tastes of gratitude, you know exactly what I feel.
Lisa, thank you for your insights in this blog on Three ingredients in a recipe for gratitude!
Hi Lisa — Congratulations on a wonderful blog. I put two and two together when I was reading “An Ignatian Book of Days” and saw entries by “Lisa Kelly.” I’m so impressed with your insight. You should be a spiritual director as well.
‘Thus, when I say, “thank you” for taking the time to read this blog post and reflect on your own tastes of gratitude, you know exactly what I feel.’
It did help me.
Thank you, Lisa
Lisa, thank you very much for this reflection on what genuine gratitude should have. There is something in your posts that deeply moves me every time I read them.
Thank you, Jolande! It is truly a gift for me to get to share my experiences of God in this life. The best part is finding connection with total strangers on the deepest levels of life like this one. For me, that connection is a taste of Oneness. (and wow, you just gave me an opportunity to taste all the ingredients of gratitude again! thank you!)
thank you Lisa’s….excellent and it helps me a lot.
Lisa, Thank you for this wonderful article. It’s funny how I think I am being grateful and realise there is more to it than I initially thought. Thank you for highlighting areas that are overlooked and often I take for granted. God bless, Andrea.
Thank you Lisa for the the encouragement to be constantly grateful