7 Ways We Can Practice Being Grateful

(Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Abdu’l-Baha suggests we should thank God a hundred-thousand times for being enabled to serve His Cause:

In short, thou shouldst thank God a hundred-thousand times for having been confirmed and strengthened in obtaining such a great gift [servitude]! Know thou the value thereof and consider that its price is highly appraised.1

But what’s the best way to do it?

Here’s a list of seven things I think we can do to practice being grateful:

1. Saying “Thank You”

This is certainly the most common way, but Abdu’l-Baha says it’s of no importance, since the tongue may give thanks while the heart is unaware of it. On the meaning of thanksgiving Abdu’l-Baha said:

Thankfulness is of various kinds. There is a verbal thanksgiving which is confined to a mere utterance of gratitude. This is of no importance because perchance the tongue may give thanks while the heart is unaware of it. Many who offer thanks to God are of this type; their spirits and hearts unconscious of thanksgiving. This is mere usage, just as when we meet, receive a gift and say thank you, speaking the words without significance.2

2. Deeds and Actions

To express our gratitude for the many favors of God, we can render good deeds, be self-sacrificing, love the servants of God, even forfeiting our lives for them and showing kindness to all the creatures.

There is a cordial thanksgiving, too, which expresses itself in the deeds and actions of man when his heart is filled with gratitude. For example, God has conferred upon man the gift of guidance, and in thankfulness for this great gift certain deeds must emanate from him. To express his gratitude for the favors of God man must show forth praiseworthy actions. In response to these bestowals he must render good deeds, be self-sacrificing, loving the servants of God, forfeiting even life for them, showing kindness to all the creatures.3

3. Live in Harmony with the Good Pleasure of God

Abdu’l-Baha says that when we live in harmony with the good pleasure of God, it’s a commendable deed and a way to be thankful for all the favors of God.

Whatsoever he wishes to do must be in harmony with the good pleasure of God. He must observe and see what is the will of God and act accordingly. There can be no doubt that such commendable deeds are thankfulness for the favors of God.4

4. Spiritual Feelings and Merciful Sentiments

Thanksgiving consists in the illumination of the heart; the feeling of the soul – spiritual feelings and merciful sentiments:

In these times thanksgiving for the bounty of the Merciful One consists in the illumination of the heart and the feeling of the soul. This is the reality of thanksgiving. But, although offering thanks through speech or writings is approvable, yet, in comparison with that, it is but unreal, for the foundation is spiritual feelings and merciful sentiments.5

5. Possess a Radiant Heart and a Soul Open to the Promptings of the Spirit

The essence of thanksgiving is to possess a radiant heart and a soul opened to the promptings of the spirit:

In this day, to thank God for His bounties consisteth in possessing a radiant heart, and a soul open to the promptings of the spirit. This is the essence of thanksgiving. As for offering thanks by speaking out or writing, although this is indeed acceptable, yet when compared with that other thanksgiving, it is only a semblance and unreal; for the essential thing is these intimations of the spirit, these emanations from the deep recess of the heart.6

6. Service

Because God has chosen us and distinguished us for His love, we must thank Him a thousand times in every moment, and the best way to do it is through service:

The grace of God hath chosen thee and distinguished thee for His love, that thou mayest thank Him a thousand times in every moment. Because of this bounty, you must choose to serve the maid-servants of the Merciful.7

7. Love One Another

But the best way of all to thank God, is to love one another!

The best way to thank God is to love one another.8

Here’s a great story about the attitude we should have towards gratitude for everything that happens to us, no matter what:

Buddha had disciples and he wished to send them out into the world to teach, so he asked them questions to see if they were prepared as he would have them be. “When you go to the East and to the West,” said the Buddha, “and the people shut their doors to you and refuse to speak to you, what will you do?”—The disciples answered and said: “We shall be very thankful that they do us no harm.”—“Then if they do you harm and mock, what will you do?”—“We shall be very thankful that they do not give us worse treatment.”—“If they throw you into prison?”—“We shall still be grateful that they do not kill us.”—“What if they were to kill you?” the Master asked for the last time. “Still,” answered the disciples, “we will be thankful, for they cause us to be martyrs. What more glorious fate is there than this, to die for the glory of God?” And the Buddha said: “Well done!”9

No matter how we give thanks, though, it will never be enough to repay God’s many bestowals to us:

Were I—and to this Thy glory beareth me witness—to render thanksgiving unto Thee, through the whole continuance of Thy kingdom and the duration of the heaven of Thine omnipotence, I would still have failed to repay Thy manifold bestowals.10

  1. Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 510 []
  2. Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 236 []
  3. Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 236 []
  4. Abdu’l-Baha, “The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 236 []
  5. Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 360 []
  6. Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 179 []
  7. Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 507-508 []
  8. Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 468 []
  9. Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 63-64 []
  10. Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 122 []

About the Author

Susan Gammage, MES, Certified Life Coach, author, educator and researcher, maintains an active Baha'i-inspired life coaching practice, which focuses on applying Baha'i principles to day-to-day situations. She is the author of "Violence and Abuse: Reasons and Remedies", a compilation of quotes from the Baha'i Writings and is currently working on several other books including a Baha'i Perspective on "Overcoming Anxiety and Depression"; "The Courage to be Chaste in a Sexual World"; the "Baha'i Marriage Manual" and "The Spiritual Roots of Disease". Visit her Bookstore; get your Free E-Books ; sign up for her Newsletter; and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

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Discussion 5 Comments

  1. Susan, you have “hit this one out of the ballpark.” You have shared how developing an attitude of gratitude can improve a person’s life and connected it to the Baha’i teachings, along with sources for more information. I posted a comment, with “like” on my Facebook Timeline page so that more people can be exposed to this and other important messages/learnings that you have to share. The world is a better place because of people like you. 🙂

  2. Beautifully explained by you!
    Possessing and then demonstrating the qualities of ‘thankfulness and gratitude’ are the common denominator of all Happiness.

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