Other Thoughts About Gratitude

E. J. Dionne Jr.
E. J. Dionne Jr.

On Thanksgiving Day, E. J. Dionne Jr., the Washington Post columnist, added his thoughts about the discipline of gratitude.

“Thanksgiving is about gratitude,” he says, “which is a disposition, a virtue and a way of thinking all at once.” Indeed, it “is a form of discipline. Often those with hard lives and little wealth express enormous gratitude for what they do have, sometimes simply for life itself. Perhaps those with the least best understand Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: ‘Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.’”

When Dionne congratulated Yuval Levin, the conservative editor, writer and political theorist, for his great success by his age of 38, Levin responded “that ‘luck and chance go a long way,’” and that “Ecclesiastes 9:11 should be stamped on luxury cars and Harvard degrees.” That passage in the New International Version of the Bible states:

  • “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”

“Gratitude,” said Dionne, “requires the swift, the strong, the wise, the wealthy, the brilliant and the learned (or those whom the world recognizes as such) to beware of their temptation to arrogance.”

“No matter how hard we might have toiled or how much we might have struggled, the bounty we enjoy is inescapably linked to unearned blessings. We need to remember what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said “’Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone. Therefore, we are saved by love.’”

Dionne’s thoughts echo those of Arthur C. Brooks that were summarized in a prior post [1] as well as those about my own gratitude.[2]


[1] Another Perspective on Gratitude (Nov. 23, 2015)

[2] Gratitude I (March 15, 2012); Gratitude II (April 11, 2012); Gratitude III (April 13, 2012); Gratitude Revisited (June 13, 2015).


Another Perspective on Gratitude

In previous posts, I have tried to express my gratitude for many people and experiences in my life.[1]

Arthur C. Brooks
Arthur C. Brooks

Now Arthur C. Brooks [2] has offered another useful perspective on this important virtue in his essay, Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier, N.Y. Times (Nov. 22, 2015).

He has concluded, “Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.” In short, “we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness.”

To that end, Brooks offers these “concrete strategies:”

  • “First, start with ‘interior gratitude,’ the practice of giving thanks privately.”
  • Second “move to ‘exterior gratitude,’ which focuses on public expression. The psychologist Martin Seligman, . . . recommends that . . . [we should] systematically express gratitude in letters to loved ones and colleagues. A disciplined way to put this into practice is to make it as routine as morning coffee. Write two short emails each morning to friends, family or colleagues, thanking them for what they do.”
  • Third, “be grateful for useless things. . . . the little, insignificant trifles. . . . the small, useless things you experience — the smell of fall in the air, the fragment of a song that reminds you of when you were a kid. Give thanks.”

Brooks concludes by saying that he is “taking my own advice and updating my gratitude list. It includes my family, faith, friends and work. But also the dappled complexion of my bread-packed bird. And it includes you, for reading this column.”

Thank you, Arthur Brooks, for offering your perspective on gratitude.


[1] Gratitude I (March 15, 2012); Gratitude II (April 11, 2012); Gratitude III (April 13, 2012); Gratitude Revisited (June 13, 2015).

[2] Brooks is the President and the Beth and Ravenel Curry Scholar in Free Enterprise at the American Enterprise Institute. Previously he was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government at Syracuse University, where he taught economics and social entrepreneurship. He is the author of 11 books and hundreds of articles on topics including the role of government, fairness, economic opportunity, happiness, and the morality of free enterprise. He holds degrees from Thomas Edison State College, B.A. (Economics); Florida Atlantic University, M.A.; and Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School, Ph. D. (policy analysis).