Sunday, December 16, 2007


i'm currently reading this book called 'thanks' by robert emmons.  it is an exploration of the science of happiness.  emmons is making the case for the measurable positive value of gratitude in human psychology.  he goes beyond the idea that being thankful is nice, polite, or appropriate and argues forcefully that it is essential for mental health and for a civil society.

i am finding his arguments compelling and obviously echoed throughout all major religious traditions.  here are a few quotes (in bold) and notes that might be stimulating...(more to come when i read the second half of the book).

"[recognition] is more than politeness or superficial thanks... recognition is the quality that permits gratitude to be transformational" (p.5)

"Gratitude binds people together in relationships of reciprocity - it is the building block of a civil society." (p.9)

Ingratitude leads inevitably to a confining, restricting, and shrinking sense of self and to emotions such as anger, resentment, envy, and bitterness. (p.10)

"When people report feeling grateful, thankful, and appreciative, they also report feeling more loving, forgiving, joyful, and enthusiastic.  These deep affections appear to be formed through the discipline of gratitude" (p.11)

Joy is not a biologically set point, ie. one cannot discount another's joy as natural - 'they are just happier individuals'.  the research shows that people can and do improve their default happiness state. (p.11)

We must develop ways to affirm gratefulness - to 'want what we have'. (p.12)

Studies show that American males generally show very little gratitude - because to do so would imply dependency and indebtedness.  American men do not like to be reminded they need others. (p.15)

Gratitude is a chosen attitude - not a response to what you get (a contrast to happiness which is more often related to happenings) (p.17)

To say that gratitude is a choice is not to say it is easy.  things that block our ability to be grateful are...a sense of being victimized, an inability to admit ones shortcomings, a sense of entitlement, an inability to admit that one is not self-sufficient. (p.18)

"In a culture that celebrates self-aggrandizement and perceptions of deservingness, gratitude can be crowded out.  it is also easy to see how gratitude can have a difficult time surviving in a culture that celebrates consumption.  But in gratitude we recognize that we are not ultimately producers and consumers but, above all, the recipients of gifts" (p.18) 

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." (p.18)

depression is inversely proportional to gratitude. (p.40)

"consumerism fuels ingratitude." (p.43)

"Gratitude requires that we affirm our dependency on others and recognize that we need to receive that which we cannot provide for ourselves." (p.54)


Neal said...

Great stuff Geoff! I have been reading The Happiness Project blog for most of the year which examines happiness as well. I too am joyed to see that it all comes back to Jesus' words! Shlom to all!

Elizabeth said...


I glanced at a few pages of that book, and was very convicted and have been chewing on a few of those quotes last few weeks.

What a radical (yet simple) way, and impossible to grasp without God's grace- I am so horribly prideful.

I've been finding that when I remember to be thankful (like, not the manufactured, stuff my real fealings kind- but honestly count my blessings and acknowledge God's pure grace), it's more natural to "always believe, always hope, always trust", and be longsuffering. And my pessimism is brought into the light for what it is: fear. Wow, we're really not in control, huh?