Appreciation or Gratitude?

As a child I was frequently admonished for being ungrateful. My mother told me often how good I had it because I wasn’t born during the war (WWII) and that I should be grateful we had food and a roof over our head. In later years, our GP, the ‘family doctor,’ echoed this sentiment when he suggested how fortunate I was and how grateful I should be for studying at university at a young age rather than having to wait for years as he had, and once again because of ‘that war.’

And of course, there was much – and then some – to be appreciated. I remember the sun streaming in through the curtains one Easter morning, bringing the promise of Spring and warmer weather and Easter eggs. And even though I was ashamed and embarrassed at first, I appreciated and loved my godfather for pointing out my competitiveness in a board game. Nobody else had gone to the trouble and I would never forget. 

I so enjoyed spending time with him and his wife in their beautiful house; I loved that she was elegant, even though I did not know the word as a little girl. I loved that she wore perfume; it preceded her wherever she went and suited her to a T. I adored that she was an artist and could create beautiful things every day, with such ease and poise.

But what was it about being grateful that didn’t sit right?

Was I just plain callous and ungrateful or is there more to it?

Reading the first paragraph about being grateful again, do you also get this sense of how sticky, servile and guilt-ridden this much-touted virtue of being grateful is? I must have felt it as a child; the unfairness of being asked to extend a sentiment towards something outside of me, something I had no personal and felt experience of. How come I was born when I was born? Was that my fault and was there a suggestion that I should have been born during the war? What had I done wrong?

There was a feeling of being made beholden to strange people and unknown situations and there was the threat of guilt when being asked to be grateful for something nebulous and unfathomable that seemed to have to do with ‘fate’ – if there is such a thing. And what could I possibly do about that?

Being grateful felt like a yoke and imposition, something that was wielded against and over me to put me in my place lest I forget my inferior position in the overall scheme of things. In later years I would hear the expression ‘being grateful for small mercies’ and it confirmed the implied servitude and the pecking order: beware, your place is at the bottom of the heap and be grateful for what you have. In other words: stay in your place and don’t you dare step out of line!

And to top it all, there was the guilt of being ungrateful, knowing full well that to be a good person means to not ever be ungrateful.

In the second paragraph, the words ‘appreciate,’ ‘love’ and ‘adore’ appear: can you feel the expansion and the spaciousness they bring? Can you feel that appreciation carries no demands, impositions or implied servitude? Can you feel that appreciation does not ask anything of us but is an offering that supports and confirms us? Can you feel and do you know from your own experience that appreciation is felt in your body and can’t help but express and share itself around?

Is it possible that appreciation is part of basic self-care, supports our vitality, is joyful and does not need to put one person down at the expense of another/others?

Can you feel that appreciation does not play power games?

So, what is it about two seemingly very similar words that sets them worlds apart? Did you think they meant the same?

What are we buying into when we just accept what is thrown at us and comply?

What do we subscribe to when we are grateful? Is it that which asks us ‘to be grateful for small mercies?’ Are we saying ‘yes’ to servitude, belittlement and guilt?

And furthermore, what do we know innately as children that we then discard to fit in?

What happens to this inner compass that can feel and knows exactly which direction the wind is blowing from?

And finally, would it be fair to say that we can easily be led astray if we don’t feel, discern and stay with what feels true – regardless of the prevailing winds?

By Gabriele Conrad, Goonellabah, NSW

Related Reading:
What is the Science of Appreciation and how does it Evolve All of Our Relationships?
The Art of Appreciation – Helping to Break the Cycle of Self Abuse
Appreciation, Appreciation, Appreciation…..

472 thoughts on “Appreciation or Gratitude?

  1. How much can come with a word. It is like a a little bomb that explodes from our mouth. We can be so careless in our expression and communication that we can be releasing harmful time bombs or we can deliver love bombs. How we are with ourselves determines the quality of our expression. How we treat others is, on some level, how we treat ourselves.

    1. In my experience it is not just ‘on some level’ that we treat others like we treat ourselves but that it is an exact carbon copy, an identical twin. We might not like to admit or acknowledge it as such, but that doesn’t change the fact. If I hurt another, I hurt myself first and keep that same energy forever circulating until I change what I align to.

  2. You can be asked to be grateful or appreciative. Or you can be grateful or appreciative by your own accord. When you are asked to be by someone else, you are asked to move in a way that is not part of your movements. It is an imposition. When it comes from you, you move (with) it, naturally so.

    1. When we move to please others, we contract and make ourselves into something that is not who we are in order to be recognised, even applauded.

  3. Just lately there have been little incidences within the home that have stood out with the actions of my family and what occurred to us in these moments; there had been a lack of appreciation, either for the home or what others do for us. As an example, some drawers were tidied up, but very quickly things were put in the wrong place and what transpired was the fact that there was lack of appreciation. Once this came to our notice, there has been a transformation of how the drawers are stocked and cared for. Now other areas within the house have been highlighted as needing the same care.

    1. Without appreciation we lack the foundation for moving forward and it is then very easy to relapse and go into free fall.

  4. I was intrigued by the title of this article. When I consider the difference, it feels like gratitude is directed at another person or thing and holds the ‘gratidudee’ as less than the other ie. without you I wouldn’t have…Whereas appreciation is more like a feeling or quality for me. It doesn’t belong to anyone and can be used anywhere, anytime.

    1. Appreciation can’t be used as a pawn, as something another can hold over us; appreciation is very personal and goes from within out, not the other way around.

  5. Appreciation feels much more expansive and embracing of everyone, whereas gratitude feels like it is about ‘self’ and is imposing and needy. Great call Gabriele to make the distinction between the two, as they are vastly different.

  6. After reading this I can understand how the two words can easily be mixed up. As I pondered on the word gratitude it kind of felt I owed something for their success or existence.
    Whilst appreciation is more personal to the person and can be felt in observing the smallest thing in its grandness. And yes I can feel the expansion of this word – it is beautiful.

    1. Gratitude is like a servitude of some kind, it makes us be beholden to another or to circumstances and played into the hands of notions such as fate, chance and powerlessness.

  7. We do not appreciate nearly enough the details of our day to day life and the people in it that build us up and teach us what we need to learn.

  8. Yes there is a feeling of stickiness, a feeling that there is a superior and inferiority aspect in the word grateful. Appreciation allows space and is well worth adding to the daily routine so it takes front and centre attention in our lives.

  9. I love appreciation. Its something I did not have much of a relationship with when younger and that cuts one off from the world in some way. It makes the experience of being here narrow and we miss out on the richness of our being ness. By that I mean it is so simple to appreciate, it costs nothing, is limitless and is a great source of wealth to share. It can be of the tiniest things that might go past unnoticed. It can be with anyone, including ourselves (and perhaps most importantly to start with ourselves).

  10. Great call out Gabriele. The word gratitude has feeling quilty in it. Like you should feel that and because you do not feel that you are wrong and not thankfull anyway.
    The word appriciation has an invitation in it to the bigger wiser you to acknowledge you and all.

    1. Gratitude does imply trying to make someone beholden to us for oner reason or another; it feels like perpetrating a huge imposition and loading another up with strong suggestions of guilt and wrongdoing.

  11. Thank you Gabriele. I grew up with the same sentiment that I had to be grateful for what I had and essentially conform to my parents and grandparent’s beliefs. Do as they say with my feelings not being honoured and met. Life was about blood family and not the bigger overarching love I had for all. I had the opportunity to express my feelings equally and bring me to everyone but whatever it was to keep the older ones ‘happy’ and not rock the boat that was the way it was I had to conform by being grateful.

  12. I feel we do not stop and truly feel words like you have asked us to do here. After all a word is just a word right!!! No! I was doing this the other day breaking down words young people use (especially boys towards girls) with a young women and feeling what did it mean and why do we allow certain words to have such power over us? All very fascinating. And sitting here first feeling the word ‘gratitude’ in my body and then ‘appreciation’ what I can feel is similar to what you have shared in that gratitude asks us to look outside of ourselves for something and even if it does not feel true for us we have to make it a truth! Whereas appreciation comes from within the body, there is no imposition … it just is. It comes from our truth, the truth within.

  13. I remember grateful as a child also being used to toughen you up, like if you twisted your ankle and lay on the ground in agony you just had to be grateful you hadn’t broken your ankle instead of caring for the injury you had sustained.

    1. Gratitude is making us be beholden to someone or something, to circumstances outside our control whereas appreciation enriches and contributes to all of us and the field we live within.

  14. Yes… When we are told to be grateful… And the energy behind what we’re told is loaded with resentment, anger, even bitterness, we really need to feel what true appreciation is like and to reconfigure our awareness so that our children are not encumbered in the way that we were.

    1. Great point in regards the responsibility we all have to not pass the unresolved issues we grew up with on to our children; there comes a point when we draw a line in the sand, forsake comfort and declare that enough is enough, no more lies and impositions.

  15. The strain is only there when we limit ourselves and hold back our love.. Appreciation is instant and should be our foundation, this is a different depth than gratititude is offering us.

  16. Appreciation is freely given and costs nothing. It is a currency like no other, and the rewards ripple out from you (rather than the focus on bringing it back to you) having an effect that we can never fully comprehend on the outside world (much like your Grandfathers comment about the board game). We could always appreciate more….. and more…… and more!

    1. A prime example of compounding interest is appreciation; the more there is to go around, the more there is and then … there is more and even more and then some.

  17. Appreciation is foundational for our evolution. For appreciation is a confirmation of love in activity through our movements, as such encompasses the truth of one and all, allowing us to deepen our awareness as to what is of this truth and what is not, in order for us to live more freely all that we are.

    1. “Appreciation as the confirmation of love in activity through movement” is divine expression = the confirmation of love in the activity of expressing appreciation.

  18. Being told to be ‘grateful’ for something, as another does not have it, goes nowhere towards addressing the said issue, as there is always someone seemingly ‘worse off’, or ‘better off’ than you. And we buy into the current temporal ideal of what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

  19. It’s definitely a common thing amongst families to be told to be grateful for something because others didn’t have it. Maybe it is a previous war it’s relating to, or that children in other countries don’t have enough food, so “be grateful for what you have and eat everything on your plate”. These kinds of statements seem to sweep through generations and become quite commonplace without anyone questioning them.

  20. It is a horrible feeling when pressurised to express gratitude because of another’s needs. What is worse is the picture that is set up to make us feel guilty and the bullying that can come because of a group alignment to that picture. Yet we know truth, it doesn’t go away and the more I allow myself to accept truth in my life as a loving movement towards myself the more I can hold steady and not fall into a way of being that is not who I am and this includes being grateful. It is also worth mentioning that when I do feel imposed upon to be grateful it doesn’t come with a reaction and a hardening of my body… to read the situation and the bigger picture accepting what is on offer to evolve are key.

  21. The impact of appreciation is super powerful and absolutely necessary for us to grow.
    ‘Can you feel and do you know from your own experience that appreciation is felt in your body and can’t help but express and share itself around?’

  22. I feel the whole intention of the word gratitude is to change our movements, from true movements in rhythm with our bodies to movements that are out of sync and don’t expand us.

  23. Appreciation was never mentioned to me as a child, yet gratitude was emphasised – “you should be grateful for….xyz.” Even recently at a dinner I expressed appreciation and invited others, including children, to take part, but the host turned it into a gratitude event. Interesting…..

    1. Now that is interesting; it would have been fascinating to observe how people’s posture and general demeanour changed over the course of this gratitude event.

  24. Blimey, I was taught gratitude was an all important virtue one ought to live by meanwhile appreciation was held with far less importance almost at the bottom of the pile of ways to live. It is deeply worrying how we are being educated with the opposite of the true and healthy way to live life.

  25. I have been connecting with my inner quality as I am moving in my day, and appreciating this as I move, I love the feel of appreciation and how it brings so much.

  26. I have been working on deepening my appreciation for some time now, it always has a gorgeous and at times joyful feel to it, especially when shared with another, ‘Can you feel and do you know from your own experience that appreciation is felt in your body and can’t help but express and share itself around?’

  27. Reading this it feels like gratitude came as one big guilt trip and feels as though it only serves to keep people as less. My parents experienced the blitz and were poor growing up and from time to time stories would come up about how hard it was for them growing up under those conditions. Thankfully they did not hold this over us.

  28. I am sure most of the planet can relate to your blog Nicole, how many of us have found ourselves completely wound up trying to do many things at once and fighting the clock. It has become societies norm to rush anxiously around wanting to fit more and more in.
    What of cause we are missing out here when we are like this is the quality, when we rush we miss out on true quality and without quality and presence we have to ask ourselves is it worth it even if I do get all boxes ticked.

  29. There is such a difference between being grateful and truly appreciating another. I know for me when someone appreciates me for being me I feel it in my whole body as opposed to it purely being a mental exercise. I find that when gratitude is expressed it comes with a need usually for approval or a wanting of something from the other.

    1. I agree James, I have found appreciation is a whole body experience and gratitude seems to be a purely mental one.

      1. It is amazing how confirming and freeing it feels to be truly appreciated for being me. I know it takes away all the incessant trying and need or want for any recognition knowing that I am already more than enough.

  30. I just did a little googling on gratitude and found a short video. Its seems to be promoted very strongly in the positive psychology arena’s. What I noticed from the video is that gratitude and how its referred to is a seeking outside of oneself, being grateful for what is around us , events, people etc. A lot of what is presented on the outside looks very positive. But there is a realness missing. It feels like a great partner for the word ‘hope’. They are both words that sound like they are offering us something more, but are they really?

    1. Very interesting, this comparison between gratitude and hope. Both look to the outside to bring us something and perpetuate the myth of randomness, chance, fate and a general disempowerment.

    2. That is really interesting Jennifer about gratitude focusing on what is outside of us. I find that appreciation is to do with the qualities of my being and what I bring to the world and how others respond to that, and appreciation is something I feel inside myself with my whole body. Even if I appreciate a sunset and it’s beauty, or another person, I still feel the appreciation as a beautiful quality within me. It seems that gratitude is is for things and events outside of ourselves and is often felt in comparison to what another didn’t have, and it also does not acknowledge the being in any way. Based on that it’s possible that gratitude, as described above in the positive psychology arena, is used when people are disconnected to themselves and experiencing an emptiness and to try to fill it with a ‘positive’ take on their outer life. But the reality is until the inner emptiness is truly addressed by people reconnecting to their essence gratitude is just another band aid for their ongoing misery, and quite frankly it feels like another tool that is based on a consciousness that sees human beings in a very reduced view and excludes their being. It’s another ‘doing’ activity instead of enjoying the being we are.

  31. I love the distinction raised here with appreciation and gratefulness. The former is simple and there is no ask, no expectation, it’s just a way of deeply seeing is there and honouring that. The later is a demand, and the word duty comes in, there is an expectation of pay-back in some form or other, even if just slightly and often it is something that is done by us or another to be recognised or needed. It’s not about offering something or just being used just because. Appreciation is expansive and all feel included, gratefulness is about measuring and payback and becomes about an individual or a group not everyone.

    1. Gratitude is certainly narrow, tunnel-like even while appreciation encompasses the much bigger picture. And, as we know, the bigger picture is bigger than big, it is vast and then some.

  32. Appreciation is an expansion and a confirmation all rolled into one movement. Showing us that through an appreciation we are not only valuing who we are in essence but all others also which then highlights the power of brotherhood within it also.

  33. Love this blog. As a child I was often admonished for being ungrateful and it felt awful. We all get exactly what we need in order to evolve. Our choices are reflected back to us in every interaction and every moment. We need to appreciate it when we’ve chosen or recognise the truth and observe what happens when we or others do not, without judgement.

    1. That seems to be a common theme, demanding gratitude from a child, the thin veil over a jealousy of their lightness and joy.

    1. It feels like the self in gratitude comes from either its provider, the need to be seen in a certain (grateful) frame of mind and/or the one who requested the gratitude for their own self-gratification. Appreciation on the other hand enriches us all and feeds back into the all.

  34. I have never stopped to feel the difference between those two words. What I feel now is that with the word gratitude, there is a movement to the outside in which somehow I give my power away. Whereas with appreciation word, the movement goes in the opposite direction. It goes towards me and expands through me, as it is the expression of something that is confirmed and celebrated within me.
    Thanks Gabriele for this opportunity of going deeper with the understanding of words and its impact in our life.

    1. Very true – appreciation has a feedback loop that gives back, nourishes and replenishes wheres gratitude has a dragging and draining kind of quality,

  35. There is a natural enjoyment with appreciation. No matter what it is that we are doing its enjoyable because we are doing it and moving in a way that remains connected, delicate and sensitive. There is a sense too that their is more within, more to feel. Gratitude feels like being put into a box, its set and bound by walls, that you can’t move beyond.

  36. I was pondering on the word grateful lately and feeling that it was something demanded of me, not my own expression, it was as if I was unworthy of what was being given and therefore has to be grateful. Where as appreciation carries with it no imposition or demands just a sharing of the joy that is felt in that moment.

  37. I used to feel guilty about not feeling grateful for things, feeling bad about being ‘ungrateful’ for things that had been given to me but I’d often not asked for or wanted in the first place. The word grateful feels like a state of being subservient, while the word appreciation has a totally different sentiment and quality: a grandness that incorporates an understanding and an enjoyment of something or someone.

    1. That is exactly the point – demanding gratitude leaves the recipient either diminished and belittled or feeling guilty because they cannot possibly comply or understand what they are supposed to be grateful for.

  38. The childhood sensor we have of what is not right is very well attuned. If only we were confirmed in this as kids so we would not give it up as an unwelcome nuisance. Even though it may be ‘right’ what the adult is saying, if it comes laden with judgment, resentment etc. it is not true to the child (or anyone else!)

  39. Very true Gabrielle, for without discerning there is no observation, no space and hence we wield in the pravailing winds than our own breath. A beautiful reminder of how important appreciation is. To take it forth now.

  40. In this article I have been able to gain a deeper insight to the behavior of many, myself included. For years the ‘be grateful for what you have got’ belief held me and kept me in a space that allowed only a depression. Seemingly life was amazing and I should be grateful, but it lacked my presence, my spark and any allowance of my sense of true self to be a who I was. To be grateful for a life with out our essence is a trap of the deepest proportions.

  41. Being grateful or expressing gratitude feels like it has strings attached, an alternative motive, whether that be to keep someone in their place. It feels finite. Appreciation is never ending, what we can appreciate is endless. The important thing here is that it is not a mental exercise. Its an observation where something about the way you move stands out and is recognised. That moment is appreciation. When that shift becomes everyday we are then confirming that very way of appreciation.

    1. True, gratitude comes with an ulterior motive, something the person who asks for or demands it is after, usually some kind of recognition. Appreciation on the other hand begets appreciation and is never-ending, like an eternal spring.

  42. I have heard it said that far greater than the nuclear bomb is the bastardisation and redefinition of word. And it applies so well to this context because in truth being grateful and being appreciative are miles apart in their quality yet in our language they are synonymous by definition. This in effect allows us to hide the truth of what is really going on because to be grateful means to be good and to be good is definitely to not be who you truly are.

  43. Interesting that both examples offered here of a demand for gratitude are comparing the current to the hardships of WWII. There seems to always be a play on guilt, lack of deserving and the threat that the item could be whipped away. So very different to appreciation with the recognition, confirmation and joy in the perfection of the moment.

  44. Gratitude feels to me like something we are in servitude to, like a ball and chain we respect is there, like an activity we need to make time for. Appreciation is not boxed or constrained this way but is a warm and full enjoyment of everything that is around. Like a river it flows and has no end – the only difference is if we are swimming with or against the stream. Living contra to the tides of appreciation takes its toll as we obstruct and get in the way of heaven in this world. Your words here Gabriele confirm for me that this simply isn’t worth it.

  45. ‘appreciation carries no demands, impositions or implied servitude?’ So very beautifully said Gabriele. True appreciation is a grace that holds all.

  46. Yes no matter the prevailing winds, it is the step we need to make. Appreciation comes from our inside. Blame from the outside – which is never true neither serving any ounce of a person!

    1. Danna that is so true when we appreciate based on the quality of the movements, our feeling inside then to me it is totally different to appreciating what we do. As I spent my life trying to appreciate what I do and that now so different in-appreciating who I am.

  47. It is great to distinguish between appreciation and gratitude. Realising the difference between observing, claiming and being in the joy of the vastness of ourselves and what we are part of, as opposed to holding ourselves less and inferior to something, brings home the fact that at times we may think we are appreciating something but there is a flavour of gratitude at play.

  48. I find appreciation offers much more than gratitude because it is an expression of expansion and confirmation all rolled into our movements. It’s also lovely to feel an expression of appreciation because it is the sharing of appreciation that we can be inspired and confirmed by one expression and one then unfolds this expression can expand our lives through the learning and connection it offers. Appreciation is forever beholding of all.

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