Everyone likes to feel appreciated for what they do and who they are, and that is they precise reason why most everyone resents people who are ungrateful. I might have just made gratitude sound like a simple kindness needed by shallow, insecure people, but failing to show gratitude can actually be an act of cruelty. As social animals, human beings need to feel appreciated and connected to the people around them, and if you fail to give them thanks or show your appreciation, then they will often become embittered. Showing gratitude can be seen as another function of love: showing your genuine concern for the well-being of others.

Why is gratitude a part of transcendence, then? Feeling gratitude for what you have and for the people around you can certainly make your life more meaningful. People just aren't born into this world with the same resources and gifts, and some will always be at a disadvantage. If you focus totally on the negative things that happen to you then you are liable to be mired in depression about your sad existence. Learning to be grateful for the good you have permits you to find satisfaction and even happiness with the resources you have at hand. Being grateful for others also helps you create a closer bonds to others, as well as helping them want to bond more closely with you. If you don't appreciate or care about the people who care most about you, and if you are ungrateful for what the world has given you, then you will be hard pressed to find a lot of meaning or purpose in anything you do.

Human beings, even as they need appreciation in their own lives, often fail to have or show appreciation to others, however. This can happen for various reasons. Often times anger, pride, or disappointment keeps us from wanting to be grateful Let's take anger, for an example. Even if you are not angry at a particular person, you may not recognize any help or affection he or she gives you because you're in a state of constant negative focus—you may even unfairly lash out at that person (a lack of temperance, in this case). If you are angry at the person who is helping you, your mind may poison all the good that he or she does for you. For another example, pride can obviously keep you from admitting that you need to be grateful for others. Jealousy or obsessive disappointment is a negative emotion that focuses on what didn't happen, or what you don't have.

Sometimes you will have to work on other weaknesses, like those mentioned in the paragraph above, in order to be able to have and show gratitude. A lot of gratitude comes from habit as well, however. If you spend more time thinking about the good that happens in your life—actively working to be more positive—than eventually you will be more grateful. If you make an effort to thank people more often and show your appreciation in other ways, then by habit you will begin to show gratitude more often. Marriages have been saved by one party simply learning how to show more gratitude (often to another party that suffers from pride). This may not be the first virtue to tackle head-on, but if you don't develop a sense of gratitude then you will never have a well-rounded, complete life and your loved ones will not experience the best you have to offer them.

Here are some exercises that can help you develop gratitude:


  • Set Out to Thank Everyone that Helps You/Make a Daily List: Try to thank those you significantly interact with at least once a day (I guess hovering over people and being gracious over every single nicety might be annoying in certain circumstances). It's easy to forget to thank others if you're not in the habit, so work on making a daily list of all the nice things people have done for you and if anything slips significant slipped your radar, you can thank them the next day. Making the list also serves as a nice reminder that you do indeed have things to be grateful about (you may want to make an entire journal focused on gratitude).
  • Go Back in Time: Like above, but think about all those people who've helped you in the past and never got a thanks (or could never get enough). This is a great exercise for people you share close relationships with, like parents, spouses, or other loved ones.
  • If You Haven't Got Anything Nice to Say about Yourself...: It's natural to evaluate yourself in your head every once in a while. Whenever you criticize something you have little control over, like your hair or the timbre of your voice, make an effort to notice something nice about yourself as well. Over time you will be reminded more about the things you have to be grateful for, and not just pestered by your faults. This, of course, also works as a great exercise for becoming more grateful about the other people in your life by turning this on them to see more of the good in them as well.
  • Acknowledge that "Score-Card in the Sky": People generally want to get an equal return from relationships, and in order to avoid resentment from your friends and acquaintances you should try to make sure that you return the good they give to you. Some people like to think of this as an imaginary score-card that hangs heavily over every relationship. Now, you might be protesting: "that's not what relationships are about!" That is very true, and if you are that protestor I'm glad you're acknowledging that. It is foolish and unfair, however, to expect others to give with a smile on their face when you don't give enough back. Making sure to return favors or affection to those who've helped you or given their time to you is not just great relationship advice, it's a great exercise for having better gratitude. If you acknowledge the good that people do for you, and you genuinely return good back to them, you will become more grateful for everything they do—or at the very least let others know how grateful you feel, which is also important.
  • Work on Temperance, Humanity, and the Other Traits of Transcendence: Having good self-control can keep you from acting out in a way that seems ungrateful. Having a better sense of humanity makes you more open to feeling grateful for those in your life. Last but not least, if you work on your sense of spirituality and purpose that can be found in transcendence, then you will see the world through a lens that sees much more to be grateful for.

Your Record

Whenever someone shows you kindness and you don't acknowledge it, then mark yourself at "fault"". If you make someone you love feel under-appreciated, and you don't correct it somehow, then mark yourself at "fault". If you realize that you refused to see an act of kindness from someone you were angry at, then mark yourself at "fault". Make some goals based on the activities above. If you fail to complete the activities or reach your goals, then mark yourself at "fault".


Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.

Lionel Hampton, American Jazz Musician, Legendary Vibraphone Player

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

William Arthur Ward, American Scholar, Editor, and Pastor

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.

Kahil Gibran Lebanese-American Essayist, Novelist, and Poet

Golden Mean

Excessive gratitude

Recommended Reading

Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier — by Robert Emmons

This advocate of "Positive Psychology" (which seeks to promote emotional wellness, rather than treat mental disorders), believes that a life filled with gratitude can give one less anxiety, closer relationships, and improved health. He also has advice on how to improve your sense of gratitude.

Gratitude: A Daily Journal — by Jack Canfield, D. D. Watkins

This book is a two-part, year-long journal specifically for recording your personal expressions of gratitude and acknowledgment for what others do for you. A great book to have if you are a little intimidated with how to start you journey toward a life filled with better gratitude.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Gratitude is something of which none of us can give too much. For on the smiles, the thanks we give, our little gestures of appreciation, our neighbors build their philosophy of life. A. J. Cronin