The Noblest of Virtues

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

When you think about gratitude and its place in our culture, you might not immediately think about morality.  Often, we make gratitude sound like it’s all about you. In the domain of self-help, we hear that gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life, or that when we are grateful, fear disappears, and abundance appears.

But there is a much older, pre-self-help conception of gratitude.  To first-century philosopher Cicero, gratitude was a matter of religious obligation.  Modern psychologists such as Michael McCullough acknowledge that gratitude is a moral barometer, an acknowledgment “that one has been the beneficiary of another person’s moral actions.  It is also a moral reinforcer, as a reward that will lead you to give more of yourself in the future.”

In a sense, gratitude prepares the brain for generosity. To count your blessings is quite different from counting your cash, because gratitude, just as philosophers and psychologists predict, points us toward moral behaviors, reciprocity, and pay-it-forward motivations. Our brain literally makes us feel richer when we do for others.  Perhaps this is why researchers have observed that grateful people give more.

Gratitude is not only good for us but for others.  As Robert Emmons writes in The Little Book of Gratitude, “we did not create or fashion ourselves, and we did not get to where we are in life by ourselves. Living in gratitude is living in truth. It is the most accurate and honest approach to life.”

Our gratitude glorifies God as we exalt not the gifts, but the Giver.  It is a virtue worthy of cultivation because it helps us realize all we have comes not because of us, but from God.

It gets at the very essence of what it means to be created, finite, fallen, redeemed, and sustained by the God of all grace. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. 

The overflow of gratitude is joy.

“O Come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving and make a joyful noise unto Him with songs. For the Lord is a great God and great King above all gods.” Psalms 95:1-3

source:  Why a Grateful Brain is a Giving One by Christina Karns

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