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Attributes of Compassion

Contemplating Gratitude: What It Is. What It is Not and Where to Find It

By Sara Rodriquez

Gratitude—now that’s a word we throw around, especially during this month of Thanksgiving.

We are told to express it at all times and we encourage others to do the same. Gratitude is the cure-all for the punches life throws at us and if at any point we forget that, we can rest assured that someone will give us a patronizing (albeit good-natured) reminder.

We hear so much about gratitude that it seems we force ourselves to put it on display because grateful is the thing to be these days.

But what is gratitude, really?

Maybe we can start by clarifying what it’s not.

Gratitude is not the opportunity to showboat. It’s not the words we say, it’s not a promise we keep and it’s certainly not an intermittent phenomenon. It doesn’t mask, shield, hide or fool nor does it explain or promote. It’s not a goal to reach or a concept to perfect and it’s neither critical nor complimentary.

Gratitude is not a brand we wear.

And it’s definitely not a Facebook status update, some vague picture-quote about life or a mindless sermon preaching its magic.

I’m not knocking gratitude; it’s absolutely necessary to be grateful and express thanks in our own ways. Yes, I just listed a few things that gratitude is not, but that’s beside the point. In fact, doing these things isn’t necessarily what creates gratitude or a lack thereof. For example, posting a Facebook status about how grateful I am doesn’t mean that I truly am grateful nor does it indicate that my expression is false.

Sure, it’s easy enough to define what something is not.

That being said, this is my attempt to describe what gratitude is:

Gratitude is a place—specifically, a place inside each of us where, upon finding it, we settle into it’s aura of contentment. Nothing is too much or too little, no thought is too harsh or too sweet. It’s a place of effortlessness. All that exists within it is love—not obsessive love, not tough love, not exhilarating love or painful love—just pure love.

To me, gratitude is the constant reminder that there is more to life than any one thing. It’s the subtle whisper that keeps me on track, pulling me home when I stray too far from my path. I see gratitude as forgiving. I try to express it accordingly.

I try to remind others (and myself) that there is more to life than a single event, person or thing. I try to amplify the whisper they may or may not yet hear. Once it’s strong enough, it ripples beyond personal space to reach anyone in the process of diving deeper—and then they feel inspired to take the plunge.

I try to forgive. I ask to be forgiven. I settle into my sacred place fully knowing that forgiveness and gratitude are one and the same. This also poses the greatest challenge—forgiving as much as I wish to be forgiven—but I find that living deeply in this place strengthens the love from which my gratitude is born.

So, I forgive. I remind and I remember. I love. That’s my gratitude.

The authenticity of gratitude comes with knowing that place inside. However we choose to express it doesn’t matter; what matters is that it comes from that place.

I know when I find that place I have nothing to show for it. I have nothing to say that would adequately express what I feel there and I linger until I discover the next invitation to go a little deeper.

Once we find gratitude, there’s no need to tighten our grip for fear of losing it. We don’t rise to a dead-man’s float—we only settle deeper into that flood of love we can’t describe.

And if floating on the surface is the equivalent to believing that gratitude comes from everything it is not, then wandering up there means we have yet to find the sacred place within us.

When we are advised to remember our gratitude, it’s not the kind that we turn on and off at our leisure, nor is it the kind that we preach without practicing. Even if we don’t realize it, our intention is to encourage each other to express our gratitude authentically. We want to show that place inside and we blossom upon seeing it in others.

Gratitude is necessary in its authentic form; there is no other means of communicating such a sacred place. Even beyond its vitality, authentic gratitude is among the most stunning of human features.

What better time than now—in this month of Thanksgiving—to discover that place of gratitude?

Let’s go a little deeper into the love we find.

Let’s forgive.

Let’s live in it…

and share that we’ve found that sacred place with confidence.



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