It always used to strike me as strange when people talked about being grateful, no matter what happened to you in life.
A car runs a red light and smashes into your car, trashing it completely, and leaving you with a stiff neck for years to come.
It made no sense to me that someone should be thankful for such an event.
And saying that someone should be thankful that it wasn’t much worse doesn’t help, because you could say that about any minute in which you live except your last.
A lot of the material I’ve read and heard about gratitude mixes up various concepts associated with being thankful. Even the clinical studies of the endorphin and serotonin effects during expressions of “gratitude” don’t adequately define the word, nor do the major studies agree on their partial definitions.
In short, the studies show neurological benefits from regular expressions of gratitude, but they don’t actually explain to us what gratitude is.
Various examinations of the word take us back to the root word in the Latin language, Gratus, meaning pleasing; welcome; agreeable.
The word Gratus is also the root of the word Grace.
Gratus itself comes from the ancient root word Gwere, meaning to celebrate or be in contact with the Divine.
In none of these meanings is there a quasi-masochistic sense of welcome for harm or calamity.
There’s nothing in there that instructs us to say: Gee, thanks for the ankle injury and the toothache.
In fact, I think it’s counter-productive to tell people to be thankful for things they’re definitely not thankful about.
I’ve been in a few tight spots, and I remember hearing my squeaky voice begging for Divine intervention, but it wouldn’t have made sense to sayor squeak: Thank you so much for this violent, disturbed convict who’s trying to kill me with a knife, because he thinks I’m his uncle Stan, who apparently was no avuncular hero.
You can’t be sincerely thankful for situations like that.
I tried. It didn’t work. No matter how I looked at it, my afternoon would have been much more thankful without the homicidal attack.
I think there are at least 2 important kinds of gratitude.
One is the kind of gratitude we exchange every day; the gratitude we might expect from someone when we do them a good turn, and vice versa.
This, it seems to me, goes back to the meanings of the Latin root word, Gratus: pleasing; welcome; agreeable. This is the agreeable way that we acknowledge one another with welcome, pleasing recognition.
Then there’s the other important kind of gratitude, spiritual gratitude, which is closer to the even older root word Gwere, meaning Grace.
It seems to me that spiritual gratitude is thankful for 2 things: my existence itself, no matter what form that takes, and the chance to be worthy of the challenge.
Wow, God, that was close, but thank you for this chance to be worthy. I won’t hurt the disturbed convict. I’ll seek to get him help. I’ll rise above this situation in the knowledge that it, too, shall pass. And I’ll be more mindful of the disturbed energies of others in future, both as a lesson from this challenge and as a good end in itself. I have Faith.
And that second kind of gratitude makes sense to me in the spiritual context: the chance to be worthy; the chance to rise to a plateau inside yourself that you didn’t even know was there; the chance to show what Faith looks like, in triumph or terror; the chance to walk the talk and be the change that you want to see in the world.
Prosperity tests character; adversity tests Faith.
In each case, it seems, the only way to insulate the spiritual self is to surround it with gratitude for the chance to be worthy: to face success or failure and remain in a state worthy of offering Devotion.
I think the formula is something like this:
I want to offer Devotion to the Divine Perfection,
and in order to do that I should be worthy of offering,
which means that I have to clean up my Ego and my Intentions,
and I should stay energized in that state of Grace,
by facing everything that happens with gratitude
for the chance to develop my character and to strengthen my Faith.
And in that sense, Dear People, I’m truly so grateful for each day, and all its lovely minutes.
Blessings, Love and Faith, GDR