Gratitude, properly understood and practiced, has the power to greatly enhance our relationships and our lives. Tragically, though, widespread misconceptions about its nature keep many people from fully enjoying it.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines gratitude as “a warm sense of appreciation of kindness received, involving a feeling of goodwill towards the benefactor and a desire to do something in return.”
Consider some examples. I have a sweet Hallmark figurine of a young girl with angel wings. I can’t help but smile when I see it. It’s special to me even though I’m not religious and it’s not my preferred style of art. It was a small token of genuine appreciation from a client, accompanied by a lovely note. I was quite fond of her and admired the progress she made. I don’t normally accept gifts from clients, but it was so tenderly given, and I knew it was not expensive. Receiving her gift was a moment of gratitude that I still treasure, and I enjoy having a memento that reminds me of her.
And then there is the funny thank-you note I received from my niece. She spent a week at our southern home to escape the unrelenting snowy weather up north. She was in her third trimester. We had a blast shopping for baby clothes and enjoyed many wonderful conversations. After her visit, my husband and I received a thank-you in the mail that I can’t part with. It was written in crayon on large newsprint, thanking us for the fabulous getaway that lifted her spirits. It’s a simple homemade note, and I cherish it. And it inspired me, in turn, to express gratitude to her.
Gratitude is an act of justice that conveys to the recipient how he’s enriched a person’s life, and it builds connection. Consider how you’d feel if a neighbor whom you’d helped in the past brought you a homemade meal with a heartwarming note when she learned that you are recovering from surgery. You would gladly reciprocate if the tables were turned. Her kindness brings you closer to one another, and you feel grateful for her care. It’s a win-win spiritual trade. There is a benevolent undertone to your relationship. She values having you as a neighbor, and you feel likewise toward her. . . .
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1. Robert Emmons, The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks (London: Gala Books, 2016), 30–31.
2. Edwin A. Locke and Ellen Kenner, The Selfish Path to Romance: How to Love with Passion and Reason (Doyleston, PA: Platform Press, 2011), 8.
3. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York: Signet, 1985), 380.
4. Ayn Rand, “Causality Versus Duty,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, Centennial Edition (New York: Signet, New American Library, 1982), 129.
5. Ayn Rand, “Introduction,” The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), viii.
6. “Robert Emmons,” Greater Good Magazine, Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/profile/robert_emmons (accessed January 15, 2020).
7. Greater Good Science Center, “Robert Emmons: Cultivating Gratitude,” YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8964envYh58 (accessed November 10, 2019).
8. Emmons, Little Book of Gratitude, 14–15, 95 (emphasis added).
9. Rand, “The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 33.
10. Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 31.