Sometimes saying “thank you” can become an automatic response. “Have a nice day.” “Thanks, you too.” It’s a polite gesture which actually has some very profound meaning behind it. The word gratitude speaks to that deeper dimension.
The word gratitude comes from the medieval Latin words gratitudo and gratus which mean “thankful.” Interestingly, these words are related to the Latin word gratia which means “favor,” “grace,” or “gift.” Gratitude is significant because it is a sign of self-transcendence, that is, the capacity to step out of ourselves. In Spirituality Today, Joanne Wolski Conn (an IHM Associate) and Walter Conn say this about self-transcendence:
“… self-transcendence proposes the paradoxical claim that authentic self-realization consists, not in the self-centered and illusory attempts either to deny the self or to meet its desires, but in a dynamic movement beyond oneself toward the good of others.”
(Conversion as Self-Transcendence Exemplified in the Life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux … the article is from a while back, but the content continues to be relevant …)
Think about it. Cultivating a spirit of gratitude means that we must look for the good in others, no matter what. It means we recognize not just a gift given but all life as gift. It means we can be a little more like God in how we relate to others:
How you love justice, God!
You are always on the side of the oppressed.
You revealed your intentions to Moses, your deeds to Israel.
You are tender and compassionate, God
slow to anger, and always loving;
your indignation doesn’t endure forever,
and your anger lasts only for a short time.
You never treat us as our sins deserve;
you don’t repay us in kind for the injustices we do.
For as high as heaven is above the earth,
so great is the love for those who revere you.
(verses from Psalm 103:6-11)
What are you grateful for this day?