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EBS85: On Gratitude

Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #85

Delivered by Eric Butterworth on September 22, 1975

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This morning I would like to give some thoughts to one of the letter requests from our listeners. This person says very simply, “I would like to hear a talk in the morning on gratitude, being grateful, maintaining a grateful feeling, cultivating gratitude.”

You know, it is interesting that the whole idea of thanksgiving and gratitude has been based upon our typically exterior orientation toward life—we are happy and fulfilled and grateful when certain things in our lives are in order and when we have happy things for which it is easy to give thanks for. But the Christian tradition suggests that we must learn to be grateful as an act of piety. This often means we should settle for lack, be happy for our mistakes. We should endure it today because our reward comes at some later time. We should simply be grateful that we are in God’s grace. Now, this is a very beautiful attitude, of course, but I think it leaves a great deal to be desired in trying to find a creative approach to life.

Many, of course, say, “Well, I certainly can be grateful if I have something to be grateful for.” And so the idea usually goes, “I’ll be happy when this happens— when the children are out of school, when I get the promotion, when I am sure my job is safe and secure...and so forth.” But I would like to give an entirely different concept relative to gratitude and thanksgiving, and I think it’s one that can give us a whole new insight into the idea.

If you look at the word “gratitude”, it refers to an attitude of greatness. Grateful means full of greatness. Thankful means full of thankfulness. It deals, in other words, with something within you, rather than something without. In a human sense, however, we say, “What do I have to give thanks for? What do I have to be grateful for?” This deals with such things as: “Do I have a job that is worthy of my gratitude? Do I have love and friendliness around me that is worthy of being grateful? What do I have to give thanks for?”

My insight is that thankfulness and gratitude deal purely with an inner state of mind, and they deal with an inner flow in relationship to the divine process. I think it is important to realize that life is consciousness. When we have a consciousness that is related to certain things, we begin to give expression to these things. This means that the question that should be asked is “What do I have to give thanks from? What do I have to be grateful from? —not for.” When we look at it in this sense, we realize first of all that I am a spiritual being; first of a]l, I am a child of God. This is the foundation of my life, and this is changeless and eternal. I may go through all sorts of difficulties, but this doesn’t change the basic truth of my life—that I am a spiritual being.

Now, I may not have much out there in life that I can be happy about, but I do have that inner flow by which I can be happy. You see, in the basic thought of happiness itself we have always assumed that happiness depends on things to be happy about—that happiness depends upon happy events, happy circumstances, people doing nice things for you, getting a surprise out of the blue so to speak, a raise in salary, just being surrounded by peaceful, blissful experiences so that you have something to be happy for. But as Abraham Lincoln once said, “A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” So it is in the larger sense we are as grateful as we make up our minds to be; we are as thankful as we make up our minds to be.

In other words, we do not need something to be happy about—we can be happy because we are in tune with the divine flow. In the same sense, we do not need something to be grateful for—we can be grateful because we are full of greatness, because we are in tune with our consciousness of the oneness of God. We can be grateful, not just for our many blessings, not just for the way people treat us, not just for the abundance that God has wrought, but we can be grateful from the consciousness that we are forever, ceaselessly in tune with the divine flow. And so we live our lifes from a grateful, thankful heart, being conscious of oneness with God and giving thanks from that consciousness. You are grateful from the consciousness that you are a great and wonderful expression of the infinite and that this greatness will manifest in your life when you give it expression, when you release it, when you open out a way “whence the imprison’d splendor may escape,” as Browning says. So that, actually, the act of gratitude and thanksgiving is not reactive, is not a response to things—rather, it is creative.

Therefore, I see it as a basic part of prayer. I say that even in prayer it is so important that we get the realization that we are not praying “to God,” but rather we are praying from the consciousness of God. Be still—know your oneness with God; that God is the one reality at the heart of you; that you live and move and have your being in the heart of God; that God knows your needs even before you ask. Be still, and pray not “to God” because in a sense there is no one or no where to pray to since God is all, and you are in it, and it is you, and it is expressing through you. So, you pause for a moment and realize this oneness and then pray from that consciousness. You pray in words of praise, in words of appreciation, you bless things and people coming out of that consciousness of your oneness.

In the same vein to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, you cultivate a consciousness of your oneness and then be thankful from that consciousness. This is to be thankful from the divine flow, from the creative process. Develop this attitude of gratitude so that when you look out into the world, it is unnecessary to say, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that wasn’t there? If this would change, then I’d be so happy and grateful.” In other words, the need is not to set things right; the need is to see things rightly, and the only way to see them rightly is to get your consciousness in tune with the divine flow. Then, you realize that you are one with the creative process, you are one with divine intelligence, you are one with all love. Therefore, you can see truely with the eyes of love, see out of this elevated consciousness, and see from a consciousness of gratitude.

Suddenly, now your gratitude lays hold of things, experiences and circumstances from an entirely different level, “from the highest point of view,” as Emerson says. Now, you can say that not only are you grateful from the consciousness of this activity of God, but in the same way you are grateful for people, you are grateful for the weather, you are grateful for your job. And now you are really grateful for these things because you are grateful from the transcendent awareness that your good comes not from these things but through you; that it is something you give rather than something you receive. You are grateful for your job because it provides you with an opportunity to give more of yourself. You are grateful for your loved ones because they provide you with an opportunity to be in tune with the process of divine love, and thus to be loved. You bless them and in return receive a blessing.

So the whole insight, then, is that gratitude is not at all tied to the changing circumstances of life, to what happens out there. Gratitude is your consciousness of oneness, of your own greatness as a spiritual being.

Remember, Paul says, “In all things give thanks.” Many have thought that this means you should go around giving thanks for everything—give thanks for your suffering, give thanks for your unemployment, and so forth. But that isn’t it. Paul doesn’t say “for” all things, he says “in” all things. In other words, you have the sense of gratitude, and you give that gratitude, that praise, that thanksgiving regardless of what the conditions are around you because you are keeping yourself in tune with the divine flow. You give thanks from the consciousness of your oneness with God. You are grateful for the realization that you are a spiritual being, and that you have within you the capability to cope with all the changing circumstances of life.

Begin with gratitude in this sense, give some thought and meditation and prayer to it, and I think you will find that gratitude and thanksgiving will take on an entirely different meaning. And in the process you will have a much broader perception of the inherent good that is within all things. Then, you will begin to find that it is much easier to give thanks for the many blessings in your life.

© 1975, by Eric Butterworth

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