Words are important. Sometimes we don’t realize the significant difference that similar words possess. For instance, when you hear the word grateful and thankful the same thoughts probably come to mind. However, let’s shift the words to gratefulness and thanksgiving. Is there a difference now? They’re similar to the first pair, but there is a significant shift.
Gratefulness is to be filled with gratitude. Thanksgiving is to be so thankful that you must respond. The thankful person is so overwhelmed with thankfulness that they must thank the giver or doer of the good.
That may seem like a small shift, but consider this example. Imagine it’s after the Thanksgiving meal and the family members responsible for cooking have made sure there were several your favorite dishes on the table. You were happy to see them, and you enjoyed them immensely. In fact, you enjoyed them too much. Now, you’re sitting on the couch wrestling between the thoughts of wanting one more spoonful and the groans of knowing you’ve eaten too much.
As you sit there, you realize those dishes were made especially for you. The thought sinks in that when those family members were planning the meal, they were thinking of you. As you realize your joy was important to them, your heart swells with thankfulness because you understand the preparing of the meal was an act of love.
What you do next determines the difference between gratefulness and thanksgiving.
If you are filled with gratefulness, you bask in the happiness their love has brought you.
If you are filled with thanksgiving, you button the top button of your pants and make your way to the cooks. You let them know you enjoyed every bite of those special dishes. You thank them for doing more than cooking a meal as you let them know you recognize their love and intentionality in preparing your favorite dishes.
On one hand, that seems like a simple gesture. But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone giving thanks because of the intentional effort you put forth, you know it’s meaningful.
Sometimes our thanksgiving is expressed in words. Sometimes it is expressed in actions. In this time of thanksgiving, let’s be grateful, but let’s do more. Let’s give thanks to those are worthy of our thanks.
Brandon Porter writes for the Commonwealth Policy Foundation.