I’ve written before about the power of expressing gratitude, but on this day before Thanksgiving I wanted to see if I could learn more about it from a different source. Gratitude is listed as one of the strengths of transcendence in Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman’s book Character Strengths and Virtues. As a strength of transcendence, gratitude connects us to others and helps provide meaning to our lives. Here is how they define gratitude:
Gratitude is a sense of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift, whether the gift be a tangible benefit from a specific other or a moment of peaceful bliss evoked by natural beauty. The word gratitude is derived from the Latin gratia meaning “grace”, “graciousness,” or “gratefulness.” All derivatives from this Latin root “have to do with the kindness, generousness, gifts, the beauty of giving and receiving, or getting something for nothing” (Pruyser, 1976, p. 69). Prototypically, gratitude stems from the perception that one has benefited due to the actions of another person. There is an acknowledgment that one has received a gift and an appreciation of and recognition of the value of that gift. It would be unusual to say that one is grateful to oneself. (p. 554).
I really like the idea that the ability to give to others without expecting anything in return is a character strength. Graciousness is transformational both for those that give and those that receive. Those void of grace never experience the fullness of a life lived beyond transactional relationship with others.
Someone with a strong grateful disposition experiences gratitude with intensity and frequency. They feel grateful for numerous things (e.g. family, friends, job, and health) at any given time. For any given positive outcome or life circumstance, those with a strong grateful disposition can find numerous people (e.g. parents, co-workers, mentors, and role models) to feel grateful for.
How grateful are you? Here are six questions psychologists use to measure gratitude (McCullogh et al., 2002).
1. I have so much in life to be thankful for
2. If I had to list everything I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list
3. When I look at the world, I don’t see much to be grateful for (reverse scored)
4. I am grateful to a wide variety of people
5. As I get older I find myself more able to appreciate the people, events, and situations that have been part of my life history
6. Long amounts of time can go by before I feel grateful to something or someone (reverse scored)
Make an intentional choice to be more gracious and grateful toward others today, and every day from now on. Be grateful for the fact that you have the ability to continuously improve your strength of character.