There is a Difference Between Gratitude and Thanksgiving

There is a Difference Between Gratitude and Thanksgiving



I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.  Psalm 86:12


Good morning Prayer Team!

Have you ever thought that there is a difference between gratitude and thanksgiving?  There actually is.  Gratitude is a feeling whereas thanksgiving is more of an action.  If someone does something for me, I can feel grateful.  My offering of thanks to that person is an action.  One can feel gratitude without thanksgiving.  One cannot feel thankful without feeling grateful.  Thanksgiving is gratitude in action.

Looking at life in general, the person who lives the grateful life counts his or her blessings privately.  The person who is thankful honors the giver of those blessings.  For instance, I’m grateful that I woke up feeling relatively healthy this morning.  I’m thrilled that I’m not sick or in the hospital, since many people in the world today woke up sick or in the hospital.  Now what if I take my healthy day and squander it doing bad things—if I eat or drink to excess while sitting on the couch watching bad movies?  What if I drive like a maniac, act like a jerk at work and don’t help out around the house?  I may have gratitude for health, but where is my thankfulness for my health?  I have taken a healthy day and I have made it into a self-serving day.  Again, thanksgiving is gratitude in action.

How do we feel about God’s gifts to us?  Grateful or thankful?  Do we express our gratitude with outward thanksgiving to God or are privately grateful with no action?  Using the example above, if I wake up healthy today, then I should go out and do something productive and wholesome in thanksgiving for my health.  If my health is a gift from God, then I should honor Him with thanksgiving.  If the two greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbor, then a grateful heart becomes a thankful heart by becoming a charitable heart.  The gratitude for health on a given day leads to a thankful heart that expresses it thanks in service to others.

Another way to define these terms is that the grateful heart is content, while the thankful heart is helpful.  Going to the Psalm verse above, to “magnify Him (God) with thanksgiving” calls us to action.  To “magnify” the name of the Lord means to “make greater” His name by honoring Him.  And we honor God not so much with praise, but with action.  For to love God means that one must love others.  Gratitude is an inward feeling of joy and contentment.  Thanksgiving is an outward display of gratitude.  It is an outward display of joy shown in loving action.

The goal then is to develop a grateful heart, one that recognizes the gifts of God, and turn it into a thankful heart, which glorifies God through loving expressions towards others.  Gratitude means we are pleased with ourselves.  Thanksgiving offers things that please God.  Thanksgiving is gratitude in action.

Lord, thank You for Your many blessings in my life.  Fill my heart with gratitude.  Lead my heart to thanksgiving.  Inspire my thanksgiving to offer acts of service to others this day.  Amen.

Show your gratitude towards God by doing something self-less today.


+Fr. Stavros

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About author

Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “ and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”