On Gratitude

Gratitude isn’t an exclusively Christian idea. In business, psychology, and even the secular American November holiday we find adherents. Or at least people willing to give it lip service.

I found a brief and interesting idea about the Japanese notion of on, something more than just thankfulness:

The meaning of on often includes a sense of gratitude combined with a desire to repay others for what we have been given.  It’s not just that we feel grateful, or that we express our gratitude, but that we actually experience a sincere desire to give something back.  We might think of it as appreciation that stimulates a sense of obligation. Not an externally imposed obligation.  But a sense of obligation that arises naturally within us as we recognize how we have been supported and cared for by others.

“Obligation” still sounds a little too overbearing to me. If I may suggest an Ignatian approach, the expression of gratitude might give us a nudge to continue the communication, as it were. God’s grace and mercy is something for which we can give thanks. Instead of an obligation to pass it on, what if we saw gratitude as initiating a holy conversation?

I am grateful for a gift. But a continuous exchange of gifts might grow tedious. Perhaps an expression of gratitude requires some thoughtfulness and discernment. After all, when I have a conversation I don’t just parrot back what the person says–that’s just an echo. I don’t just answer questions or ask them–that would be an interview.

Maybe my response is a grateful time spent with the person. Or some kind gesture. Or something else we come up with after the end of a prayer or a serious thinking-about-it.

Some thoughts on Ignatian gratitude here. And a video here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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