Thursday, August 13, 2009

All Gratefuled Up and No One to Thank

Church signs have caught my eye several times of late. Here's the latest:

Pity the poor atheist who feels grateful and has no one to thank.

If you've been reading here for any time at all, you know that gratitude is one of the fundamental spiritual principles of my life. There are times when I am so filled with gratitude, with appreciation and receptiveness, that I feel like I might just burst, a somewhat rounder than usual human shaped nova of golden light, a giant gratitude sparkler sending little bits of happy light everywhere. It's an intense feeling, as close to ecstatic communion with the divine All as anything I know.

I don't know why someone would think that not having a specific entiy toward which to speak words of thanks would reduce the beauty or intensity of the emotion.

If you receive an anonymous gift, something that you really need or want, are you miserable and piteous because you have no one to thank?  You might be driven mad with curiousity. You could, if you're the cynical, suspicious sort, be so consumed with identifying the source that you fail to appreciate the gift. Or, I suppose, if you're one who absolutely cannot rest until you've sent a couteous thank you note, you might lose sleep until you've fulfilled that obligation.

In my spiritual path, gratitude is not a command and thanks is not an obligation; neither are they optional. Gratitude is not a religious tenet; it's a spiritual principle, both an action and a result, a universal cause-and-effect that applies to everyone. It's a state of open, receptive awareness, one that allows blessings to flow through our lives and opens the way to connect with the Divine in everyone and everything. It is also the emotion that results from that connection and from awareness of our many blessings. And the idea that people who don't believe in deity deserve pity because they feel gratitude and don't have a god to whom they can express that gratitude indicates a lack of understanding of the principle.

There's more than one way to express gratitude. Saying thank you to the source of our gifts is one way, a good one, but I'm a bigger fan of "paying it forward." What better way could there be to acknowledge our gratitude and expess our awareness and appreciation for the good things in our lives than by helping others, by being a blessing in their lives? A personal thank you to your Source is nice; allowing that Source to work through you in the lives of others is divine. If you serve the All, what does it matter if you call on a god or not? Whether you serve in the Name of Love or in the name of love, the principle is the same.

There is no need to pity the athiest or anyone else who feels gratitude. Gratitude is its own reward, a self-fueling cycle of awareness, appreciation, and action.  A person who is truly grateful is open to receive and willing to repay, with or without a named god to thank for it. The universal principle of gratitude doesn't recognize labels like theist/athiest, believer/non-believer. Like the sun that shines on both good and evil and the rain that falls on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45), the joys of a grateful life are available to everyone.

That's something we can all be grateful for.


  1. Anonymous8:10 PM

    Hi, mom! I don't have anything insightful or witty to add... I just wanted to let you know that I love you, and your work! You're doing a damn fine job!


  2. Wow. I think I might cry. Happy tears. I love you, too.


  3. I just came over from Sitara's wonderful site to take a look at yours, and read this fabulous article about gratitude. What beautiful insight is contained therein. I'm grateful for your gratitude, and glad I clicked on the link to get here. :o)

  4. Winter MoonWolf...the gratitude is mine! Thanks for stopping by the choir loft and singing along. I hope you'll come back often and add your harmony to the song.


Sing with me...