General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Can you be grateful without being grateful to someone (or something)?

Asked by Jeruba (51858points) 3 weeks ago

Can you have a genuine feeling of gratitude without implying or assuming that there is some being or agency that you’re grateful to? If not, what does gratitude mean, then?

So if you’re not talking about a known person or entity, but just a general feeling (e.g., “I’m grateful not to have covid-19” or “I’m thankful that we can be together”), and you’re a committed atheist, is what you’re feeling really gratitude, or something else?

Or would you argue that the feeling itself is evidence that you really do believe in some magnanimous being?

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17 Answers

JLoon's avatar

I think so.

When I feel gratitude it’s sometimes for simply experiencing something existing openly and freely in nature. I have a sense that there’s an energy or force behind it, but I don’t consciously relate that to some being.

If that makes sense I’m glad – But don’t thank me ;)

JLeslie's avatar

I think so too.

Some things I’m often grateful for:

The absence of pain, when I’m lucky enough to have that.

When I feel joy.

Grateful for the quiet.

Appreciating and being grateful for the visual beauty of nature.

smudges's avatar

Yes, I’m grateful for many things, but not to someone or thing, although I am that, also.

My sister is a motorcyclist. Once when she was on a trip, she happened to be in Iowa. As she started off that morning she had to pull over and just look at the cornfields, farms, barns, cows in pastures, etc. She got tears in her eyes. She told me she just felt so grateful to be there, witnessing the beauty.

I know how she felt. I had enjoyed that same feeling once when I was looking at a pasture with trees all around it on a chilly early morning. There was a light low fog hovering over it. That in and of itself would have been enough, but right about then, the owner must have opened a barn door. Suddenly I saw 5 or 6 horses flying into the pasture at a full gallop, whinnying, chasing each other and kicking up their heels; circling the pasture with what could only be described as pure joy. With tears in my eyes, I was so grateful for being there to see htat.

LostInParadise's avatar

Yes, I am an atheist, and I feel grateful for many things that I can’t associate with any person or persons. There need not be an agent for what one feels gratitude toward, and even if there is, part of the gratitude can be toward the availability of a particular agent.

Jeruba's avatar

Is it really gratitude, though, or is it just being glad, joyful, relieved, uplifted, or some other happy emotion that doesn’t require acknowledging a giver?

kritiper's avatar

Yes. You could be grateful just unto yourself for whatever reason you deem adequate.

Jeruba's avatar

From the sidebar I see that I’ve pondered this question before, but apparently not to full satisfaction. Well, here it is again, then.

LostInParadise's avatar

Thankful and appreciative are given as synonyms for grateful. Thankful is related to thank, implying the existence of an agent. Appreciate has no such connection.

flutherother's avatar

Feeling grateful is a response to an act of goodwill. It springs up of its own accord before we have had time to think about it. There are times when you can feel this way about nature, that you aren’t just here but that you belong here. That the sea and the wind and the colours of the sky are gifts and only later do you remember that they aren’t gifts because there is no giver.

smudges's avatar

@Jeruba Gratitude is the quality of being thankful (Oxford Dictionaries), so yes, it’s gratitude that my sister and I felt on those two occasions. I was thankful that I didn’t succeed in my suicide attempt years earlier; that I was born in the U.S. of A.; that I was free; that I had vision and could see what I was looking at; that those horses were there right when I happened to be also.

It sounds like you believe that being grateful requires someone or thing to have given it to me. I disagree. I can be completely grateful/thankful without needing to assign dues or ownership of it to someone or thing.

I like this: “What Is Gratitude? Gratitude is recognizing the bonus value for favorable things or positive life experiences for which we did not actively work towards or ask for.”

smudges's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 LOLOL Too funny!

YARNLADY's avatar

Gratitude is a word for appreciating something. It is distinct from being thankful, which usually requires an outside agent.

janbb's avatar

I think one is usually grateful “for” rather than grateful “to.” I’m grateful for my good health and financial security; they weren’t particularly given to me by anyone, except perhaps genetically.

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