COMMENTARY 802.4: Learning to Experience Gratitude

In the past few weeks I’ve received an unusual number of kind and encouraging letters either posted to this blog or sent directly to me (at

Many congratulated me for hitting the milestone of 800 successive weeks publishing my commentaries and thanked me for the value they felt they received from my thoughts. Quite a few offered best wishes regarding the upcoming 70th anniversary of my birth (December 10th).

I also received several dozen personal and sincere expressions of condolence, concern and encouragement in reaction to my memo in last week’s newsletter in which I shared some of the personal difficulties I’ve faced this year that challenge my belief in staying positive and maintaining a disposition toward gratitude.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, these letters are especially significant. They fuel my passion to teach and my motivation to live a life worthy of all the blessings and gifts that have given me personal joy, purpose and meaning. And it means a great deal to me to know that folks I’ve never met really seem to care about me.

So, before I go any further, I want to sincerely thank every person that took the time to give me the gift of support and appreciation. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I’ve always understood the duty to say thank you, to express gratitude, but it’s been quite a journey to learn to really experience gratitude, especially for more subtle forms of good fortune.

Over the 15-plus years of publishing my opinions, teaching my lessons, telling my stories and sharing personal reflections and experiences, I’ve received thousands of kind and affirming letters along with several hundred not-so-kind responses.

Of course, I like the nice letters best. It’s natural and easy to like and be thankful to those who like me or tell me how something I said affected their attitudes or decisions, but what about the not-so-nice letters?

As a teacher, I actually enjoy and encourage letters that disagree with me, especially if they are well-reasoned and respectful. After all, it’s my job to provoke and inspire thought and discussion. It’s the highly critical, personal and often mean-spirited letters I’ve had the most trouble with.

I’ve often talked about the power of mindset and when I started looking at these letters and the people who wrote them from a different angle I’ve learned to be thankful for them as well.

I came to realize that every critical letter, even those that are hostile and accusatory, is proof that what I say matters and that my thoughts are not only reaching people who agree with me, but many who do not. Notes from the unconvinced also remind me that I may be wrong.

Though when it comes to experiencing gratitude as a spiritual gift to oneself I have a long way to go, I am thankful that I am better at this than I was and that I know I am not yet as good as I will be.

So I conclude this pre-Thanksgiving commentary by being thankful for my growing ability to be thankful.

I hope you don’t take as long as I have to develop your own attitude of gratitude — it will make a huge difference in your life.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Please return to the Blog Home Page  and browse to see other current and archived commentaries, quotes and other good stuff.

Comments 4

  1. Dear Professor Josephson,

    I am enjoying your commentaries and finding them helpful in dealing with life’s experiences and challenges. It is an interesting observation that you make about those who like your commentaries and those who are offended by them. Being a former student of yours, and having heard my classmates make comments, I think that sometimes the positive and the negative comments come from the same person. This encourages me to think that when I do something that is not well received, there may still be an opportunity for a positive connection on another day.

    Everything we say or do does not need to be a hit. My son is a first year student at Loyola Law School this year, and I have already told him a story that you told when I was in your class. It was not the only one of your stories worth retelling. I expect that your commentaries from this website may likewise reverberate responsively from generation to generation. Happy Birthday! Dan

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      1. Actually I believe that I have told him two of your stories.

        The first had to do with an experience that you had when someone sought an injunction against BRC. You needed legal help fast. You hired some attorneys to oppose it, they worked long hours and defeated the application for the injunction. You were happy with the work. They gave a really big bill, you paid it, but at the same time, you felt that the bill was unfairly high, that the attorneys had taken an unfair advantage, and that you would not use them in the future. The lesson I got from this is that lawyers should not seek to take advantage of their client, they have to keep in mind that they are to act in the best interests of the client, even when it comes to billing the client for services.


        You told a story about when you were a law student. You figured out that the final exam in the class would consist of being able to show that you had the elements of things memorized, and that it was not necessary to read any of the cases or attend lectures. You accepted a challenge that you would not attend any of the lectures or read any of the cases. After the final exam, you ended up with the highest grade in the class. Years later, you decided that there was more to it than just memorizing elements, and so you now recommend reading the cases, going to the lectures, and memorizing the elements.

        Thanks, Dan

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