Which Comes First? Happiness or Gratitude?

I listened recently to a great podcast by Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast as he wrestled with the topic of gratefulness.  What is the connection between happiness and gratefulness?  Some people think happiness comes before gratitude.  But, we all know people who have a lot of things to be grateful for, yet they are unhappy.  We also know people who don’t have much at all or they suffer misfortune, yet they radiate happiness.  So which comes first?

Brother David declares, “It is gratefulness that makes us happy.  Happiness does not make us grateful.”

Gratitude comes when something valuable is given to us as a gift.  Gratefulness comes first in response to the gift, then happiness follows.  We can all understand gratitude when given a great gift, but what about every moment of every day?  How do we live gratefully?  We must become aware that every moment is a “given” moment – a gift given to you.  We have no way to be sure that another moment will be given!  Every moment is a new gift!  As you reflect on the beauty of each moment given, we become more grateful for life and we discover happiness.

Are we grateful for everything in life?  No.  There are things like war, violence, misfortune, and oppression that we are not grateful for, but Brother David doesn’t say we are to be grateful for everything…he says we are to be grateful  in every given moment.  Even when confronted with difficulty, we can rise to the moment  and become grateful to learn patience, to learn endurance, and to learn love.

If we want to live gratefully in every moment, Brother David says we must…”Stop, look, and go”.

We don’t stop enough in life. We must be quiet.  We need more stop signs in our lives.  When we stop, we invite opportunities of joy…we begin to ‘look’ and see more to be grateful for in life.  If you are grateful, you are not fearful.  When we are grateful, we act out of a sense of “enough”.  When we are grateful, we respect those around us.

I am grateful for this lesson from Brother David.  It made me happy.  I thought I would share.  A grateful world is a world of joyful people!

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