Thoughts for the Soul

Gratitude and Giving Thanks

Posted on: Nov 4, 2019

A study a few years ago attempted to measure Americans’ sense of gratitude. It found that Americans see their individual selves as increasingly grateful, while everyone else’s gratitude is decreasing.

The study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, surveyed over 2,000 people in the United States, capturing perspectives from different ages, ethnic groups, income levels, religiosity, and more. The study made very clear that gratitude was enormously important to respondents.

  • More than 90 percent of those polled agreed that grateful people are more fulfilled, lead richer lives, and are more likely to have friends.
  • More than 95 percent said that it is anywhere from “somewhat” to “very” important for mothers and fathers to teach gratitude.
  • 93 percent of those polled agreed that grateful bosses were more likely to be successful, and only 18 percent thought that grateful bosses would be seen as “weak.”

If people feel gratitude is so important, why do folks think that everyone else’s gratitude is declining? Evidence shows that we may feel gratitude is important, but we don’t express gratitude.

How often, and in what circumstances, do people actually say thanks? The study documents what is called the gratitude gap. Given how often people feel grateful and how important they think gratitude is, Americans do not express gratitude very often. Some examples:

  • Almost half of people express gratitude on a daily basis to immediate family and less than 15 percent express daily gratitude to friends or colleagues.
  • Fewer than 50 percent said they would be “very likely” to thank salespeople that helped them, as well the postman, the cleaning staff, etc. Only wait staff at nice restaurants surpassed this threshold, with 58 percent “very likely” to receive thanks. TSA screeners, at the other extreme, were only “very likely” to be thanked by 22 percent of the people.

Who is grateful:

  • Women were more grateful than men on almost every measure.
  • People were least likely to express gratitude in the workplace, despite wishing to be thanked more often themselves at work.
  • Being religious was associated with greater feelings of gratitude.
  • 18-to-24-year-olds express gratitude less often than any other age group, and are more likely to express gratitude for self-serving reasons.
  • Married people are more grateful–51 percent expressing gratitude on a regular basis compared to 35 percent of singles.

The oldest writing in the New Testament is Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. He admonished these earliest Christians to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (5:16-18). Doing so allows the Holy Spirit to be at work in us.

So let’s make a Thanksgiving resolution–to express our gratitude every opportunity we have to do so. Because that’s what Christians do.

Pastor Fogal

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