two kinds of gratitude

By November 25, 2014 14 Comments

I was thinking about what I wanted to write about for Thanksgiving, after my Dad reminded me it would be nice to send out a holiday post. Thanks Dad.

Naturally, my thoughts went to gratitude.

And I realized that in recent months my gratitude practice had been impoverished, not as rich as it used to be. And then I realized why.

In recent months, I’ve been calling on gratitude when I feel overwhelmed, sad, depleted. Learning to be a mom, weathering the mommyhood sleep deprivation, putting a book into the world and navigating everything that goes with that, accepting that our sweet five year old golden retriever has a very aggressive cancer…well, I’ve needed gratitude.

When things are tough, I will often pause and remind myself it’s time to think of everything I’m grateful for. I’ll name the list – occasionally on paper, but usually just in my mind. Sometimes, moments of that day make up the list: the special note or exciting opportunity that showed up in my inbox, the time with a friend, the walk in our neighborhood filled with so many majestic trees. Sometimes, the list is the big things – my husband, my son, our doggie, the good health and presence of so many people I love.

This usually helps to put things in perspective and lift my mood. But something about it feels like that – it’s a tool to lift my mood. Like now I’m making a column of the good stuff to remind myself it’s there.

I realized that this week that this is one kind of gratitude, what I’d call “gratitude for” – because the emphasis is on noticing what we are grateful for.

There is a deeper kind of gratitude that I used to experience more and that I’m going to start searching for again. It wasn’t so much “gratitude for” as “gratitude to.” In other words, I wasn’t just thinking about what I was grateful for, but also about the fact that those blessings had a source, a source that is a fount of abundant goodness, a source that keeps generating diverse expressions of life and gracing me.

It wasn’t the gratitude for but the gratitude to that brings tears to my eyes, that would make me feel not just lucky but held. Gratitude for makes me feel fortunate, gratitude to makes me feel in my right place -as a humbled, limited, human being. Gratitude for is about counting our blessings. Gratitude to is about being on the receiving end of a conversation with something larger. That is the gratitude I want.

May your experience of gratitude be deep and rich, and this year may you remember not just what you are grateful for, but also that there is something unnameable from which our blessings flow.

With love,



Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Lindsey says:

    Oh, my. This made my breath catch in my throat. Such truth. Thank you for reminding me. xo

  • Tina/@teenbug says:

    Powerful distinction!

  • Jeanene says:

    Wow – very insightful. And thank you for posting this. I’m sharing it with everyone because it’s right on point.

  • Lisa Bourdon says:

    Oh my goodness, what a beautiful illustration of the simple yet profound distinction between the two ‘gratitudes’. Thank you Tara for putting into words what I know to be true. Feeling gratitude for you…

  • Jean says:

    Tara, thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts. I felt something similar this week, although the distinction I made was between the things I ask for that I get–or don’t–and the blessings I’ve received that I didn’t know I needed. If you’re interested, you can read my blog post at A Path Lit by Words.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Karen Bongiorno says:

    I love this: two kinds of gratitude. I know what you mean about doing a list; it can seem rather rote. Thinking through, “gratitude to”, fills my heart – makes my heart open- makes me want to share.

  • Peggy says:

    Blessed Tara, thank you for taking us back to the essence. Two hands together in Namaste.

  • What a beautiful explanation, Tara! I’ve always felt like there was a difference between feeling just lucky, grateful for everything I had, and taking it a step further and feeling truly connected and abundant, and most importantly loved beyond comprehension. Now that you’ve put it into such a clear perspective it’s going to become so much easier to nurture the deeper kind of gratitude I love so much. Thank you!

  • DonnaDavis says:

    Hello Tara,

    Very beautifully and accurately said.
    There is a popular hymn that contains the line:
    “I will go, Lord, if You lead me…”
    which a wise elder of our church always revised:
    “I will go, Lord, where You lead me…”
    Thank you for speaking the truth I–we–forget in the whirlwinds of (self) congratulation or blame…that life is a gift. Making love out of nothing at all.

  • Pat says:

    Thank you Tara. Profound perspective that deeply touched me.

  • Lindsey says:

    Yes, Tara. So love this. The reminder of the distinction between gratitude “for” and gratitude “to” is a beautiful thing. Thank you for your ongoing inspiration.

  • Dawn says:

    Wow. Thank you!

  • Traci says:

    Hi Tara, I listened to your interview on the the unmistakeable creative podcast this morning, and had to find you and reach out. I was just talking to my soulfriend a MOMENT earlier about how I want to choose the word “surrender” for my 2015, and why. Then, I heard you talk about surrender! What a sign! I I actually took notes. I love serendipitous moments like that. Thank you!

  • […] like something else I read the other day: Two Kinds of Gratitude.¬†There’s “gratitude for” and “gratitude […]

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