Gratitude and the Ancients

Yesterday we looked at what exactly this idea of “gratitude” is. Today I’d like to shed a little light on how important the great thinkers of the past felt it was.

The value of an “attitude of gratitude” isn’t something that has just recently been discovered. For thousands of years, wise people have been telling us how important gratitude is. From the Greeks and Romans to the Chinese, and all points in between, it has been known that appreciating what we have is the first step in making a happier, more abundant life a reality.

Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” – Aesop

Noble is defined as “possessing outstanding qualities”. According to the storyteller and fabulist Aesop, expressing gratitude is an outward indication of a person with superior character traits, a “noble soul”. As we study gratitude further, and learn of the benefits it can bring us, we will see the wisdom in what he was saying. Aesop’s noble soul is more than just a person who is polite, who says “thank you.” It is a person whose default mode of thinking is one of being thankful for what they have instead of constantly wanting what they don’t. This isn’t to say it’s wrong to want more, but we should be grateful first, and then seek more instead of only feeling gratitude as an afterthought.

Take full account of what excellencies which you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.” – Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, knew that “counting your blessings” wasn’t enough. We don’t just make a list of what we have to be grateful for, we think about how different our lives would be without those things and in so doing generate the true feelings of thankfulness for those things. Please don’t think this means we should dwell on losing them, however! No, that isn’t what he means, and it is NOT something you want to do. Simply imagine, for a moment, how much more difficult life would be without even the most basic things we take for granted every day. Then you will truly appreciate them, and the gratitude will come naturally.

A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.”- Plato

Plato understood one of the most basic elements of the Law of Attraction: when the mind is grateful for what it already has, it is then in the position of attracting to itself more things to be grateful for. We attract what we think about, and what we feel strongly about. True gratitude is a powerful, positive emotion. When that is our state of mind, we are perfectly aligned to bring more positive things into our lives.

Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Tao Te Ching

The ancient Chinese text Tao Te Ching makes the same point a different way. When we have eliminated the idea of lack from our minds, we open ourselves up to the abundance around us. At first there may appear to some to be a contradiction here. If we are content with what we have, we will not want more. But this isn’t true. It’s much the same as that old bit of wisdom about relationships. You shouldn’t look for the person who completes you. Only when you are complete on your own, only when you are content with yourself as you are, are you ready to truly be in a relationship. A relationship isn’t two half-people who make one whole, it is two whole people who compliment and support each other. It’s much the same here. When you learn to be content in your situation, whatever it is, then you are ready to add more to it.

So, as you can see, the importance of gratitude is nothing new. It has been understood for centuries. Please join me tomorrow and we’ll look at the value the world’s major religions place on it.

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