Thankfulness and Gratefulness: Rectangles and Squares

Gratitude and thankfulness are often synonymous, but I think that’s a mistake.  Certainly they share the same qualities, and often they share the same words. As verbose as the English language can be, it lacks distinction between words from time to time.  This is one of those times.

It’s kind of like rectangles and squares.  A square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square.  Gratitude always includes thankfulness, but thankfulness doesn’t always include gratitude.  Maybe it’s hairsplitting, but hear me out.  I can say, “Thanks” to the grocery clerk when he hands me my receipt.  I’m not lying.  I’m thankful he took the time and effort to do it.  I’m not sure I’m grateful.

Gratefulness runs much deeper than thanks.  It’s the soul searing knowledge that without this thing, this action, this expression, this –you fill in the blank, life would be drastically different.  Gratefulness informs my attitude.  When I’m grateful, the world is much more amazing.

Thankfulness is good.  It’s necessary.  It allows me to express my feelings, but it doesn’t necessarily run deep.  Thankfulness seems more about knowledge.  Gratefulness seems more about feeling and comparison, and sometimes it’s about experience.

Looking at pictures of places choked with pollution leaves me thankful for the clean air I have in Colorado.  Living in places with spotty electricity leaves me grateful for the relatively uninterrupted power and the benefits it brings that  I enjoy in America.   Too often I take those things for granted.  I’m thankful if you’re here and reading.  I’m grateful if God uses my words to impact you.

I want to be both more thankful and more grateful.  I want people to know I appreciate the small graces they insert in my life be it holding a door for me when my arms overflow, driving to an unfamiliar place, or noticing when I have a good hair day.   I also want them to know that I’m truly grateful for the large graces they lavish on me—caring for me when I’ve been incapacitated by surgery or illness, praying for me regularly—even daily (that blows my mind!), sacrificing their talent and treasure to minister to TCKs and their families.

I want to express it more.  I want to express it to the people in my life.  I want to express it to God.  I’m not always sure how to do that.  Words seem hollow after a while, but some days they’re all I’ve got.  Neither gratitude nor thankfulness are much good when they go unexpressed.

Do you see a difference between gratitude and thankfulness?  How do you express them best?

Image courtesy of Tacluda.


FaithBarista_FreshJamBadgeG I’m blogging on Gratitude today with Bonnie the Faith Barista. Hop on over to her site and see what gratitude brews others are serving up today.

4 responses to “Thankfulness and Gratefulness: Rectangles and Squares”

  1. I am grateful and thankful to God today for so many reasons. I’m thankful to friends who are praying for our family every day. But it’s not what I get out of the relationships as much as the love I feel when they hurt when I hurt, cry when I cry, and laugh lots and lots. I am grateful for a wonderful family that loves me all the time, even when I’m not so lovely. I appreciate my grown up kids who do everything they can to help me and then remind me to TRUST! It’s at times like that that I am so glad God gave me kids who grew up to be servants of the Most High God.
    Only Trust Him!
    Oh my, did I mention I’m so grateful for my husband of 49 years, given to me by God himself to share life in a wonderful way.

  2. Grateful for you, dear Soul.
    I’ve been thinking a lot about needing to express gratitude to people this season, just thanking people for being who they are and their contribution to parish life here… Maybe it can help build real community…?

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