What Does It Mean To Be Thankful?

During this time of year, it is common to take stock of your life and think about things for which you are grateful.

But what exactly does this entail? Is being thankful a state of mind, or does there need to be a public display? Are there any actions or behaviors that are associated with thankfulness? If not, what is the difference between being thankful and doing nothing?

What does it mean to be thankful?

Related questions: How does appreciation enrich the individual? How can we turn ideas into actions? How are gratitude and happiness related? What do we have in common?

4 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Be Thankful?”

  1. To be thankful can mean so many different things.

    For example, we can privately be thankful that no one noticed we did something wrong. Or we can privately feel a true sense of appreciation for the people we get to call friends, family, and community. We can even feel thankful that there’s a last piece of chocolate cake that is all ours … yippee! The first instance is bad, the second is personally enriching, and the third is trivial.

    There is another form of thankfulness. It is to give thanks (thanksgiving), which means something more. It often demands some humility. You are telling someone or a group of people that your current or prior happiness or fulfillment had something to do with them and perhaps even their graciousness.

    To give thanks often leads to both sides feeling warm and fulfilled. And sometimes that fulfillment pays it forward in wonderful ways unknown at the current moment.

    To give thanks deserves a lot more attention than we currently afford it. Sure, it’s intertwined with many holidays (e.g. Valentine’s Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, the Holidays, etc.). But I feel we actually do a pretty poor job expressing the thanks even those days ask of us, to say nothing of common days of the year.

    I don’t believe it has to be this way. I believe that the giving form of thankfulness can be taught, especially with children at a very young age. It can become an orientation toward life … beyond obligation, beyond ritual, and beyond charity.

  2. Being thankful to me means many things. Over the years I’ve known many people with physical or mental disabilities, and wonder “why them and not me? My friend Art had polio as a child, but was thankful for his hands which were still useful to hold a cup of coffee or dial a phone. I’m thankful for his friendship.

    Nowadays I’m thankful for things, and people, I used to take for granted. But I may be getting off the original question — what does it mean to be thankful? For me, being thankful is being aware of everyday things with a sense of wonder. When I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, I hope to take time to be aware of each person at the table, and beyond, to the community, our ancestors, our country, and especially the hungry, sick, homeless, or in prison.

    Last, but most importantly, being thankful means having a person to thank. For me that person is God.

  3. I think being thankful is one of our better instincts, one that can be made stronger and better with practice, but unfortunately is too often neglected.

  4. Being Thankful, or full of thanks, I think is a personal emotion. We feel thankful for many things. Our health, jobs, relationships and homes to name a few.
    On the other hand Gratitude is an expression of Thankfulness. We show Thankfulness with gratitude by expressing it with words, or a note maybe even a gift of some sort.

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