I recently reached a major milestone in my career—tenure! I felt a mix of emotions when I got the official letter in the mail—including happiness, relief, and excitement. One of the most palpable feelings was gratitude and appreciation. I definitely didn’t attain this goal on my own—I had parents and grandparents who sparked my love of learning and supported my education from a young age. I had mentors and advisers who took me under their wing and taught me how to be a psychologist, researcher, and writer. And I had friends and family members who supported me through the inevitable ups and downs of graduate school and beginning my career.
Sometimes I feel gratitude and appreciation but don’t do anything about it. Maybe you have had this experience as well. You are thankful for something or someone, which is a nice feeling to have, but you don’t take the extra step to communicate your gratitude to that person.
I think it’s important to actually express our gratitude to others in a tangible way. There is an interesting story in the book of Luke where Jesus heals ten men with leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). All ten men left Jesus healed, and I imagine that each of them felt a great deal of gratitude and appreciation—just like I did when I received my tenure letter. But only one came back to say thank you. It is clear from the passage that there is something important about actually expressing our gratitude in a tangible way—it’s not enough just to feel gratitude.
Doing something tangible to express your gratitude does two positive things. First, it blesses the person whom you feel gratitude toward. That individual may not know how much their help and support meant to you. Expressing gratitude is a gift to the person you feel appreciation toward. Second, it strengthens the relationship you have with that person. One of the primary ways that virtues such as gratitude work to increase your happiness and well-being is by strengthening your relationships. So taking the time to express your gratitude will actually make you happier in the long run.
The ways that you can express gratitude and appreciation in a tangible way are only limited by your imagination. The thing I decided to do was to write a quick thank-you note to the people in my life who helped me along my journey toward tenure. I bought a pack of thank-you notes, and wrote one note per day. It was easy—it took less than ten minutes per note, but it was a tangible way to express my gratitude and appreciation.
Discussion: What is something you feel grateful for today? What is one tangible thing you could to do express your gratitude and appreciation?