Gratitude is often understood as a moral stance, something that makes us better people, more in contact with our “higher self.” Perhaps this is so. Those who are grateful certainly interact in a more generous way than those who are dissatisfied. And those who live in a state of gratitude are inherently more at ease with relationship than those who live in a state of insatiability.
Still, there is another aspect of gratitude. Gratitude has everything to do with freedom; it allows for movement, for breath, for good accounting. The words “thank you,” in addition to representing graciousness, really shift the field inhabited by the speaker and recipient (whether the recipient is a person or an experience). A “thank you” marks the completion of something. It is usually offered to another, though the completion is first and foremost an interior experience. “Thank you” marks the close of one moment, which allows for the next moment, whatever shape it takes. Lack of gratitude, on the other hand, holds the moment and those that follow it in place.
The one who wants more does not get to move on. The residue of disappointment leads me right back to where I came from to ask, demand, plead, or manipulate for something more or something else. Of course, this is most salient with our parents, wanting more from them, wanting them to be other than they are or were. It is gratitude that frees us from whatever our complaints are!
With “thank you” I may extend my hand to you, embrace you, lower my eyes, fall to my knees, whisper in your ear, shout from the rooftop, send you a message, look in the mirror … no matter how it’s done, the feeling and its gesture signal that the moment is complete, released, and that I will now return to myself, alert to what is coming.