Two kinds of gratitude- which describes you?


Charlie and Mike are close friends from childhood.  They both consider themselves to be grateful individuals…but listen to how differently they actualize and express their gratitude in the world.

Charlie is grateful for the circumstances in his life.  He’s got a nice family, a good job, a spacious home, and many great friends.  He doesn’t dwell on his good fortune, but every now and then, he pauses to give thanks to his God.  It arrives as a more or less spontaneous gesture, often prompted by a special event or occurrence that has just taken place.  The birth of his daughter…the magnificent vacation sunset…the long-awaited promotion…the fact that his wife’s health scare ended up being nothing.

Switching over to take a look at Mike, we see that his life circumstances are similar:  He too has a good job, a nice home, and a wonderful family.  But Mike maintains an overwhelming sense of gratitude—it’s almost as if it’s part of his DNA.  He often finds himself thinking how amazing it is to exist in this world.  Mike views his life as an adventure—with ups and downs, and twists and turns.  But a meaningful, and precious ride nonetheless.  His feelings of awe and wonderment are intense.  In essence, Mike’s is an all-encompassing stance of gratitude.  His thankfulness does not simply arise in response to singular events or occurrences.  His gratitude is pervasive and touches all aspects of his life.

The gratefulness conveyed by Charlie is described by some theorists as Level I gratitude.  This involves the thankfulness for your possessions or your immediate circumstances.   It’s basically the level of gratitude that we learn as children.  “Thank you for the candy.  Thank you for the gift.  Thank you for the trip to Disney World.”  Level I gratitude is, in fact, an essential component of learning good manners.  When you practice this quality of gratitude as an adult, it gives rise to thoughts of gratefulness for the things in your life:  a roof over your head, your material possessions, your health, your relationships, and so on.

By comparison, Mike personifies what is often described as Level II gratitude.  This quality of thankfulness entails a gratefulness for life itself, for existence, for anything and everything you experience.  This type of gratitude is really an embracing orientation toward life.  With practice, it can become part of your lasting identity.

Which level of gratitude do you normally experience?  Who and what do you feel grateful for?  And who and what do you feel grateful to?  In all, when and why do you usually express your thankfulness?  Thinking about these questions can start to give you a picture of the overall role gratitude plays in your life.