What good is gratitude?

Gratitude is the feeling we get when someone is genuinely generous towards us, and not necessarily because we earned or deserved it. To be grateful is to recognize that someone else was responsible for making our lives better in some way.

We express gratitude by our eagerness to repay others for their kindness, not because we have to, but because we want to. That is the distinction between gratitude and indebtedness. Gratitude is a joy-inducing emotion.

The flip side of gratitude is resentment. We harbor or act out vindictive thoughts against people whom we perceive to have hurt us. Gratitude rewards, resentment punishes. People are often unsure about how to either give or receive benefits. 

Gratitude is predominantly recipient dependent. To feel gratitude, the recipient has to notice that a favor has been granted and to determine if the giver acted without any ulterior motives. 

Some people are more disposed to recognizing instances of kindness than others. A person who has a strong sense of entitlement is less likely to express gratitude. These people will barely recognize it when someone goes out of their way to help – they consider it their birthright.

When we feel grateful, we admit that we often have to rely on others. This realization generates feelings of resentment in those who attribute positive outcomes to their efforts. They will downplay or dismiss the contribution of other people in their lives. They will also be unwilling to ask for help, since that conflicts with their self-identity.

The intentions of the giver also matter. We will not respond with gratitude if we sense that the giver is actively trying to make us indebted to them. Any attempts by the giver to demand gratitude will only incur the opposite effect. Recipients will resent the giver if they suspect the giver is trying to manipulate them. 

Gratitude creates bonds between people. It makes you more sensitive to positive events. If you appreciate the good someone did for you, they are more likely to help you in the future. We refer our friends to businesses that treated us wonderfully.

Who are you grateful to and why?