Memo From Michael: Difference Between Expressing and Experiencing Gratitude

Please accept my sincere good wishes that your Thanksgiving celebration is gratifying.

I’ve talked before (and again in Commentary #802.2) about the difference between expressing and experiencing gratitude. I think both are important but they are quite different. Expressing gratitude to people who deserve your thanks is more like a duty, the payment of a debt. It is a way to demonstrate your appreciation to those who have somehow contributed positively to your life. Failing to do so is not only rude, it’s wrong. To those who

have deep religious or secular spiritual beliefs, expressing your gratitude to God or the universe is also a moral obligation. King Lear’s lamentation that having a thankless child inflicts wounds sharper than a serpent’s tooth tells us it is particularly painful to have an ungrateful child.

Experiencing gratitude is a very different concept. First of all, to express gratitude when one is not truly and sincerely grateful makes words of thanks no more than a hollow ritual. Just like an insincere apology, insincere expressions of gratitude lack integrity. It’s like paying a debt with counterfeit money.

Many people on Thanksgiving will articulate a list of blessings without savoring or even feeling the blessing. When we pretend to be thankful or when we say Grace or recite the Pledge of Allegiance without even thinking about the significance of the words we belittle the ritual.

So, I will focus this year (and suggest you do to) on being more thoughtful, more sincere and more reflective as I count my blessings, so that I experience the thankfulness I am expressing.

I will start by telling you once again how grateful I am for the opportunity to touch lives by sharing my thoughts.



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