CREDOS: Gratitude — V

Why aren’t men and women today more aware of the value of gratitude? One reason, Emmons thinks, is the modern emphasis on self-reliance. Society conditions us to be self-made and independent. In that context, we don’t want to think about our indebtedness to others, including those who came before us.

Mainstream academics and intellectuals now look down on the idea of gratitude toward God as a rote doctrine or even a superstition. Other aspects of the modern milieu assume that the universe is just here, a product of soulless deterministic forces — and if mindless chemistry gave us life, why should anyone feel thankful for a meaningless molecular coincidence?

Yet religious feelings of gratitude should not be seen as belittling: When a person of faith thanks the divine for being granted life, he or she is expressing the joy that comes from knowing, God wanted me to exist.

Today researchers are beginning to study gratitude as part of the broader “positive psychology” movement that seeks to understand, not why some people become mentally ill, but why others become happy, optimistic, and altruistic. A sense of thankfulness for life, for the help and achievements of others, for the chance to experience each day’s sunrise, seems to be part of making psychology positive. Thus it is in our self-interest to feel grateful because it helps enrich our own experience of life. Thanksgiving, in this view, should be every day of every year. — (Concluded)