By Ruth Verbree

November 3, 2021

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Most people think that these two words ‘thankful vs grateful’ are interchangeable and for the most part I would agree. However, there is a significant difference that I will attempt to clarify. 

I want to start this article by saying, I am so grateful (appreciative) that you are taking the time to read this blog post. AND I am so thankful that God gave me the ability to write this blog post. 

What Does ‘Thankful’ & ‘Grateful’Mean?

Let’s start off with the meaning of the word Thankful. 

From Google, this is what comes up for the meaning of the word Thankful. 

  1. Pleased and relieved, like they were thankful that the war was finally over. 
  2. Expressing gratitude and relief, like having an earnest and thankful prayer.

From Google, this is what comes up for the meaning of the word Grateful. 

  1. Feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful.  

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word grateful as “showing an appreciation of kindness.” 

This is where the difference lies; being thankful is a feeling, and being grateful is an action.

It’s easy for us to look around our table full of food and be thankful. When we are grateful, it changes our actions throughout the day and might spur us on to give some food to those less fortunate than us. I hope this is the beginning of you understanding the difference between ‘Thankful versus Grateful.’ 

Being Thankful vs Grateful

Being thankful and grateful are very important habits to develop in our lives. Both are positive attributes that as Christians we want to incorporate into our lifestyle. God calls us to give thanks. God doesn’t suggest this, God commands it! The Bible says we need to “Give Thanks.”  Beginning each day with an attitude of gratitude puts us on the path to enjoying life the way God wants us to.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

You can see in the verse above that this is not an option. It is a command! So often though, we grow up in a family where we have been taught to say Please and thank you. We say thank you for someone handing us a cookie or a compliment, or we are taught to say thank you for a gift (even when we don’t like it!). I can relate here.

This is where consistency comes in, and making a few good, healthy choices each and every day. It doesn’t take perfection – it just takes action. Read our blog post about being a C+ student here:

I’m not a theologian, but from what I find by researching, the word thankful or thankfulness shows up 71 times in the New Testament. Mostly these verses are related to being thankful and to give thanks. 

So we see many verses in the Bible about thankfulness. But have you ever found a verse in the Bible that speaks of gratitude? 

I love this verse in the NIV that says,

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Colossians 3:16

Incorporating Gratitude Into Our Lives

We all know and have heard that by changing just one area of our life, like incorporating Gratitude into every day, this can totally change the trajectory of our life. With just one Action – WOW! By starting every day with gratitude, our lifestyle will change. 

By incorporating gratitude into our lives, we will be more at peace within ourselves and we will begin to enjoy life more. Start each day with gratitude and we are better able to respond to circumstances rather than react to them. The action of implementing gratitude will give us more enjoyment and the Bible calls us to live this way daily.

Psalm 124:18 says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  To rejoice is a verb – to take action!

It goes without saying then that when we are peaceful, we have less worry and anxiety and less stress, which will also lead to a happier, healthier outlook on life. We all know that there is trouble in this world, the Bible also speaks of this, but the peace of God can surpass all understanding. 

Here are some amazing truths from the Bible:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 14:27

And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 4:6

I just love that our hearts and minds are guarded! This verse is a promise – it says “it will” not “maybe” or “it might!”

In essence, God is promising that when we take action to be grateful, God will grant us peace. This peace will lead to us living a happier, healthier life with Jesus. 

When I truly sit and ponder this…I am so filled with the awesomeness of God, our Creator. Our Creator guards our hearts. He gives us peace that no one can understand. He guards our minds, and this guarding is miraculous because it is the mind that often leads us astray.

Our minds wander, (like sheep) and they are filled with thoughts that are so often negative. BUT…when we live our lives truly filled with gratitude – “thankful vs grateful” – then we know that we can live our best life today. 

We also don’t have to worry about yesterday, because we can start living a life filled with gratitude today. We don’t have to worry about the future, because we know our trajectory will change if we live with thankfulness and gratefulness today. 

Did you know that practicing thankful vs grateful actually changes something in our brains? We really do have something that is set off in our brains, and it is called Dopamine. This happens when we are grateful. 

An Attitude Of Gratitude

Dopamine, also known as the “feel-good” hormone, is a hormone and neurotransmitter that’s an important part of your brain’s reward system. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, motor system function, and more.

So by starting our day off with an attitude of gratitude, we increase the dopamine in our brain. It starts our day off by feeling good. The more we incorporate gratitude into our lives every day, the happier we can become. AND… The more we take action and pay this forward, the more we spread happiness into the lives of those we meet. It’s a double bonus 🙂

So why don’t we do this more? That’s a very good question! It’s because we often don’t FEEL like being thankful or grateful. We feel like being grumpy because we didn’t sleep well. Or because we just woke up on the wrong side of the bed! 

We need to become aware, and then make a conscious decision to carry this habit out regardless of how we feel so that this becomes a reality in our lives. Once we begin this journey and see the changes within ourselves and those around us, it will make us want to continue on the path to making this a ritual that we don’t want to live without! As we increase our gratitude, the more aware we are of what to be grateful for. It’s an amazing thing!!!

So how do we take being thankful vs grateful and incorporate these qualities into our life right now?

I believe we can start by writing in a journal and actually listing some things to be grateful and thankful for each day. If this seems overwhelming, then start by saying some gratitudes out loud. Here is a small list that may help you to take action today.

Thankful vs Grateful List: 

  1. I am thankful (feeling) for sunshine because it warms my skin. I am so grateful for sunshine and I smile (action) at everyone I meet. 
  1. I am thankful (feeling) for rain because it waters my garden. I am so grateful for the rain because as I listen (action) to the drops hitting my windowsill I am reminded of the warmth inside. 
  1. I am thankful (feeling) for God’s love for me. I am so grateful for God’s love to me so I spread that love (action) to others in words and deeds.
  1. I am thankful (feeling) for the food set before me at my table. I am so grateful for the food set before me and I taste (action) of its goodness. 
  1. I am thankful (feeling) for my friends and family. I am grateful for friends and I tell them (action) how much they mean to me. 

This is a very basic list, but as you begin to incorporate this action into your lifestyle, you will soon go deeper and your list will become richer. I hope this helps you to improve the quality of your life of being thankful vs grateful. I would encourage you to continue to show appreciation and take action with gratitude in your life every day the way the Lord commands us to.

How are you going to show appreciation and take action with gratitude in your life? Let me know in the comments below!

Blessing upon you,
Ruth Verbree

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