In common usage, “gratefulness” and “gratitude” - which derive from a common Latin root - gratia or gratus - are often used interchangeably. I prefer to use “gratefulness” because the suffix ful conveys a greater sense of the fullness of the experience. It evokes amore all-embracing condition of being in a state of thankfulness and appreciation. Interestingly, a well-known Christian devotional writer, Benedictine monk and psychologist, David Steindel-Rast, has made the following distinction between “thankfulness” and “gratefulness”: “Personal gratitude deserves to be called thankfulness, because it typically expresses itself in thanks given to a giver by the receiver of the gift. Transpersonal gratitude deserves to be called gratefulness, because it is typically the full response of a person to gratuitous belonging...Gratefulness is the mystical element of religious gratitude, thankfulness is its theological one.”
The dictionary definition of gratefulness is associated with grates, which means – “free, pleasing.” We are given life without doing anything, without deserving it, without having to struggle for it. It is free, a pure gift. Life is unexpected; it comes as a “surprise”. It is not frightening or worrisome but rather a source of anticipation, excitement and wonderment. Viewed this way, life can become an endless source of gratefulness.
The Modern Hebrew word for “gratefulness” is hakarat hatov, which can be translated as the “the recognition of a favor.” I would submit that this term has another definition that is highly germane to our topic. In Hebrew, lehakir, the infinitive form of hakarat, “to recognize,” can also mean to “make the acquaintance of” someone or something. Tov can mean “favor” or “goodness.” Simply put, the power of gratefulness lies in its capacity to allow us to become emotionally and spiritually acquainted, in one’s heart and soul, with the reality that all things, in some profound if not entirely observable way, are intrinsically – good. To be grateful is to see life as a constant source of goodness with which all people can make a warmer and more honest acquaintance.