Enough is not enough when it comes to gratitude
An email from John and Jill Smith explores “reasons to be grateful” – and that contrary to the global economy, when it comes to saying our thank yous, there are never enough.
From: John and Jill Smith
Subject : Enough and gratitude.
I was much taken by John Naish’s [idea of] ‘never enough’ gratitude. I decided to explore it and the enclosed is the result. I shall probably use if for a sermon, but you might find it useful for the web site. It is short but I hope profound and I explored yet again the book on Virtue by MacIntyre.
There is never enough gratitude, saying thank you and being grateful is a virtue that is important. There are real benefits. People who consciously work at being grateful are more alert, enthusiastic, determined, optimistic and have more energy. Thankfulness even seems to improve the heart function according to some research. Being grateful and kind is good for the givers aa well for those who are the recipients of such kindness. This is good for the community of which we are all part. Gratitude is action for the common good. Showing gratitude is something to which we should all aspire. Being thankful is a vital part of our society.
Being thankful to God for the elements that make up the common good is an important part of Christianity. Part of the common good is the air we breathe, the sun which warms us, the food which sustains us and the ozone layer that protects and supports us with many other elements of creation. Other common goods are the services we receive, the care that is there when we need it and the education that is fundamental to our society. As Christians we are also grateful to the example and sacrifice of Christ and other saints who lead us in joy, sacrifice and service for our fellows, compassion, community and creation. The practice of worship enhances our satisfaction with life and enables us to touch and develop the spirituality that is present in all of us. For these generosities we should be openly grateful.
Gratitude also counters the modern tendency of the materialistic person to be over competitive, alienated, envious and stressed leading to chronic worry, regrets and self centeredness. When we perform kindness, thankfulness and show gratitude we add to our and the recipients stock of good feelings. These positives adds quality to our lives. Thankfulness is more than important it is vital for good health and happiness and is a foundation for hope.
Happiness or joy depends on attitudes that are essential to health. The discipline of practical gratitude begins with generosity of spirit, managing feelings, loving and serving others, appreciating beauty and art, family and parenting, fulfilling work and enough money, empathy with others, especially those who need concern, political understanding and participation in philosophical and religious ideas. Thought and education can add to a generous and forgiving spirit that can make lives worth living. Such attitudes begin with the practice of gratitude, just saying thank you is fundamental to good relationships.
Gratitude is a foundation of virtue. A quality which enables an individual to achieve a good future. What is a good life?, is a complex question not only for the individual but for the community, it is both political and personal . The answer includes courage, justice and virtue where gratitude has this vital function.
We are both individual and corporate. We live a single life in relationship with others. Both are fundamental. To be what we are and can become requires others. To fulfill the challenge of the common good we need to be grateful and accountable to others as well as ourselves. Kindness, mindfulness and thankfulness; gratitude are part of the success of any life that seeks the good.
Life should be a quest, one that is about self knowledge and good relationships based on kindness and concern for the other, a natural empathy that understands. We each have to find our personal moral identity, but that also depends on our relationships, with both God and our brothers and sisters of humanity and the rest of creation. This determines the quality of the common life. It includes the vital practice of gratitude and the consequent achievement of virtue.
MacIntyre, Alasdair. “After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory“. 2nd ed, Duckworth, 1985.
Naish, John. “Enough: Breaking Free From the World of More“. Hodder & Stoughton, 2008.
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Comments on "Enough is not enough when it comes to gratitude"
A very helpful article for the "Joy in enough" workgroup on spiritualty and theology: thank you very much.