For our survival, the Creator designed us with certain thirsts and hungers that cause pain unless they are satisfied. Ravenous infants will escalate their fussiness to high-pitched screaming, if parents ignore their need to eat. As we grow up, this need for personal gratification reaches beyond physical appetite to psychological and spiritual longings. Indeed pain may result from these human desires, as Buddhism teaches, but life is sustained not by denying them, but by fulfilling them in the right way.
Part of that right way is for gratification to produce gratitude. The sensation of quenching thirst is a personal experience. Feeling grateful to the person who handed us the glass of water is a relational experience. The capacity for both these feelings were built into us by God to keep us alive and to keep us in love.
Gratitude is basic to the survival of loving relationships. But it cannot remain just a frame of mind. For it to be authentic, it must be authentically expressed. The attitude of gratitude must become the action of thanksgiving. Giving thanks releases the real power in gratitude, for it communicates an atmosphere of communion and community. It draws people together.
Saying “thank you” is the fulfillment of feeling thankful. Hearing someone say it is even more important, because our need for being appreciated is also divinely built-in. In fact, learning that others are grateful for who we are and what we do is very gratifying. This is why mutual thanksgiving is so important in life both for creating a pleasant social environment and for sustaining personal satisfaction.
This is why those who are gratified with many good things in life are never fulfilled unless they become grateful to the Giver of all good gifts. Thanksgiving to other people is the basis of relational health, but thanksgiving to our Maker is the bottom line in religious devotion. Never forget that God is a Person, and we are persons only because we are created in His image. The real reason we find expressed gratitude gratifying is because God does. It’s part of human happiness because it’s part of what makes Heaven heavenly.