Thanksgiving is behind us and every year it raises a question for me. What is the difference between being thankful and being grateful?
According to the dictionary there is no difference. They are perfect synonyms. But that just doesn’t seem right to me. They may mean the same things, but I do not think that we experience them as being the same.
I think that for many of us the word “thanks” doesn't carry that much meaning. As children we are taught manners, when someone does something for you or gives you something, you say ‘thank you.’ When someone says ‘thank you’ to you, you say ‘you're welcome.’ This polite behavior is taught to us over and over again until it becomes rote, an automatic reply to a gesture or deed given without a whole lot of thought. It is good manners and we were raised to have good manners. That is good and important. The problem is that saying thank you just doesn't carry the weight that it once did.
Gratitude is another story. When someone tells us that they are grateful to someone for something that they did, or for something that they received, that carries meaning. It carries with it the suggestion that, what ever the deed or item was, someone was touched by it. The word “grateful” has a gravitas that thank you just doesn't carry.
I suppose that some ‘thank you’s’ are given from the heart and received that way too. But in general, I believe that expressing our gratitude carries more significance than just saying thanks. Should we change the name of our holiday to “Gratitudes-givingday”? I don't think so and I am certain that Hallmark would put up a big fight if we tried. What I do think we can do is remember that Thanksgiving is about more than just saying thanks. It is a time to acknowledge all that we are grateful for.
If we do that, then our bellies and our hearts will be full at the end of the day.
Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.