What is an Attitude of Gratitude Anyway?

By: Deacon Marques Silva

In my youth group growing up, it was common to hear youth leaders encouraging us to have an “attitude of gratitude.” They always desired for us to see what the Lord was providing and the manner in which we received it. It did not make much sense then, but this simple practice has made a huge difference in my life.

It is one thing to be thankful. It is quite another to foster and live this “attitude of gratitude.” What does that mean? It means that we choose to be thankful first before we complain or are critical. If we are honest, we must admit that a grateful mindset is really hard! Just consider the reasonable questions that we ask here in Northern Virginia: How the heck does one give thanks for bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-495? Why should I be thankful that the money for my contract has run out and I find myself unemployed? What is the point of being thankful for the annoying and incessant gibber-gabber I hear daily from Uncle Xerxes (No offense if this is your name, just needed an example)?

shutterstock_118038310Thankfulness allows us to live in, and be mindful of, the present moment. It has the potential to train us to look for the virtue in each situation and recognize that regardless of what is going on, the Lord is still in control. Sacred Scripture reminds us that thanksgiving is connected to a sacrifice that is due the Lord, which is an act necessary in order for us to approach the Lord:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High (Psalm 50:14)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name! (Psalm 100:4).

St. Paul seems to indicate that thanksgiving assists in quelling anxiety and is linked with our supplications in prayer,

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4).

There is actually a fair bit of science to this as well. Baylor University published a study in March 2014 entitled, “Why are Materialists Less Happy? The Role of Gratitude and Need Satisfaction in the Relationship Between Materialism and Life Satisfaction.”[1] The findings are not surprising:

  • People who are materialistic are more likely to be depressed and unsatisfied, in part because they find it harder to be grateful for what they have
  • Gratitude is about other people
  • Those who are grateful are likely to find more meaning in life

It seems this attitude of gratitude can even promote healing. A study from the Northeastern University College of Science of California reports that gratitude reduces the need for immediate gratification and even financial impatience.[2] Its findings demonstrated how gratitude can build patience and thus assist in resisting temptations that underlie a host of problems from credit card debt to disordered eating and drug addiction. Sounds like good spiritual and temporal direction to me!

It is equally true that thanksgiving does not whisk away the challenges and suffering this life presents. It does however, helps us garner the strength to bear our burdens patiently and reminds us to rejoice in our/others triumphs in a healthy and humble manner.

The holiday of Thanksgiving comes once a year, but fostering an attitude of gratitude…that should be a daily occurrence. Why? Isn’t that what we will be doing with all the angels and saints before the throne of grace in heaven?

And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:11-12)

[1] Jo-Ann Tsang, Thomas P. Carpenter, James A. Roberts, Michael B. Frisch, Robert D. Carlisle, “Why are Materialists Less Happy? The Role of Gratitude and Need Satisfaction in the Relationship Between Materialism and Life Satisfaction,” in Personality and Individual Differences, July, 2014.

[2] Northeastern University College of Science, “Can Gratitude Reduce Costly Impatience?” ScienceDaily, March 31, 2014. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331100236.htm.

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