Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines that they are truly grateful? This is said only to emphasize the gratefulness in their heart rather than make a comparison with false gratitude. Though it does raise the question about coupling sincerity with gratitude.
Is there a way to be insincere in our gratitude?
The haughty religious leader who prayed in the town square comes to mind. Jesus starts the story like this: The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.* The man begins with thankfulness. Minor deduction skills allow us to ascertain that his gratitude was insincere. What made it insincere? The fact that the intent was to bring attention to his own goodness rather than the goodness of God is our first clue. More importantly, the statements are wrought with comparison.
Is gratitude sincere if we are just expressing relief in being in a less unfortunate position than another?
It’s like the parents who try to encourage their kids to eat their food by telling them, “There are starving children in Africa who would be very grateful to have that plate of food.” The unspoken reprimand is, “You should be grateful for what you have because there are people less fortunate than yourself.” Is that really grounds enough for gratitude? Should the misfortune of others bring us the warm feelings of gratitude?
To be thankful we have to recognize goodness, nothing more. We needn’t bring up the seemingly sorry situations of the souls around us to be truly grateful.
I am just grateful that I am not like those people. Let’s nix that.
I am just grateful that such a horrible thing has not happened to us. Let’s not think that way.
Let’s just simply and sincerely say, I am grateful. Then, follow that by stating in the affirmative the goodness that has so graciously been bestowed upon us, sinners though we be.
Art is ‘Pharisee and the Publican’ by James Tissot