Lots of people write books on what they call gratitude, on how, if you appreciate what you have, you will get more. Though true, it has nothing to do with gratitude at all. It is a completely different principle, that of getting more of whatever you focus on. Gratitude is far more fundamental than that!
So then what is gratitude? First, let’s discuss what it is not…
Gratitude is not something you think and decide about. In particular it is not what you do in response to your life situation, irrespective however wonderful, non-descript or horrifying it might be.
Gratitude is a state of Beingness. An Attitude. It is actually an abbreviation of ‘Great Attitude’/Gr(e)atitude. The Attitude of Greatness. Or, if we are to playfully Americanize it, it’s what makes the ‘Great I dude’ .
Jesus was in a state of Gratitude His whole life, even while nailed to the cross. And Victor Frankl was too, after finding his post graduate studies in and practice in Freudian psychoanalysis meaningless. He also felt gratitude at the most trying time of his life while in a concentration camp. No more, no less. At a time when he saw his own religious leaders denounce God in dismal resignation.
If what I write is true, then to fully understand the condition of gratitude, we must also discuss its opposite. What do you think it is? Take a moment to write it down before proceeding. You may be surprised by what you learn here.
Gratitude is a condition whereby you stop resisting, stop fighting, with life, with yourself. It starts with unconditional Acceptance. And then it goes a step further. It is a positive response to the passive act of acceptance. It is an acknowledgment that you, in *your omnipotence, have created precisely the conditions you find yourself in. That you have created a world which perfectly reflects all that is beautiful, and also all that is not so beautiful in your soul.
As such, it is a condition of acknowledging and regaining your own power, your own response-ability to what you have reflected in your material life and surroundings, your world. The Greek word for gratitude is eu-nomos-yne, literally means the “Good Law (of) ‘Is’ness or Being. So being in the state of gratitude puts you in sync with this Universal ‘Way it Is’, which in religious terms is One with God, or At-one-ment.
To clarify further, as a ‘Way to Be’, gratitude is not, and cannot be a judgment, so whatever circumstances you find yourself in , you can chose to be in gratitude, or to quote a nun I saw on TV ‘‘Whatever happens, whether the most joyous occasion, or greatest tragedy, I always say ‘Thank God’”. Naïve, or wise?
The biggest mistake people make is to confuse gratitude with gratefulness. I am not suggesting that you express gratefulness to the person who rapes you, robs you or hurts you in any way. Or that you should tip the rude waiter out of guilt. But if you learn to separate non judgmental, inner gratitude from judgmental, outwardly directed gratefulness, then you will unlock the key to your own power, first to deal in a life enhancing way with the painful experience you have endured, and subsequently, to open the way to creating, this time with conscious awareness which is in turn reflected in ‘better’ life circumstances.
Briefly contrasted, gratefulness is a response, gratitude is causal. The extent to which you focus on the former is the extent to which you respond to your circumstances. The extent to which you focus on the latter is the extent to which you create them.
But you don’t have to be in the blissful, powerful state of gratitude. There is, as always, a choice. ONE other choice, and one only.
What did you write down as the opposite of Gratitude?
In truth, it is victimhood. That is the opposite, one and only way of being, other than gratitude. It is the state whereby you deny your own responsibility, both in creating, by reflection, the life condition you have attracted, and your response-ability, rather than reflex, unconscious re-action to it. Or put another way, not being the consciously causative agent in your life, but living in the effect of your unconsciousness.
I have counseled more than one woman who had been a personal victim in a violent crime. When they were able to turn from the state of victimhood into one of unconditional gratitude to life itself they became free and powerful. It was a hard choice to make, but once made benefited not only their own lives but the lives of everyone they touched.
And whether or not you believe that Jesus arose from the cross, He is more alive now, two thousand years later than He would have been had He not been crucified, OR if he had allowed himself to be a victim. Likewise, Victor Frankl, in deep gratitude, inspired everyone in the concentration camp, Jew and German alike, touching all their lives profoundly, and left a legacy of psychology books all should read (to begin I suggest Man’s Search for Meaning – which you can purchase on Amazon by clicking here).
Each one of us, to a greater or lesser extent, more or less times, has felt that s/he has been ‘wronged’.
It is for you to decide whether to continue resisting the ‘way it is’, in victim-hood, and with this ‘hood’ smother your awareness, or exercise your freedom (divine right) to choose, and to remain in a state of gratitude.
To continue fighting the stormy waves of Life, to re(en)act, denying your power of response-ability to your painful experiences (while pain is at times inevitable, suffering is a choice). To be dumped continuously, helplessly, one wave after another, until you drown.
Or learn to Live Life with Gratitude, unconditional anticipation and enth(eo)usiasm (meaning God-filled), of the waves, and to surf on their crests.
What has been your experience with Gratitude? Have you found yourself able, for moments or longer, to spend time in this Divine Space? We would love to learn of your experiences – and for inspiring us with your stories we will gratefully randomly choose several commentors to receive a gift from our store.
Apollo Pampallis, Therapist and Philosopher, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving him a comment below…