I believe gratitude is about being whole - it’s a kind of circle of life.
When one feels, or maybe thinks, that they have been given something wonderful, our response is to accept it. After accepting, we come to the realization that our world, our friend, our family, a stranger, the gift-giver thinks that we are worthy of such a gift. In the last part of the process, when we acknowledge the gift with a humble thought of gratefulness, we have completed the circle of gratitude, and we become whole.
Let me explain. Have you ever received something like a beautiful morning, a song of a bird, a hello in an elevator, a smile passing by, and not really stopped to acknowledge it as a gift? Yes, you are guilty of this. I am, too.
Notice that none of these things I mentioned are actually material things. We take all kinds of things for granted, and that is the antithesis of gratitude. This unawareness hinders us from becoming whole.
I think that gratitude has a duality. At times being grateful is completely innate, and at other times we must learn to exercise and display our gratitude. Innate gratitude occurs in babies, animals, and plants. It is a natural act of realizing dependency and being grateful that our needs are being taken care of in spite of not having advanced cognitive development. Learned gratitude comes from education, culture, experience and awareness. In these learned situations, cognition does play a role and makes us actively choose how we react to receiving gifts.
The feeling of wholeness arrived at through gratitude is one of joy. Then, when we are able to give to others because of this feeling of wholeness we feel, it enhances the circle, and expands the whole cycle.
We give, we receive - it’s that simple. The cycle of gratitude not only repeats itself, but sustains itself completely.