Difference Between Thankfulness and Gratitude

Thankfulness is synonymous with Thanksgiving Day, the day families gather to share a feast, usually with roasted turkey and all the trimmings. It’s the prelude to Black Friday when deals can be made in stores and online, and making preparations to “deck the halls” in anticipation of Christmas Day.

Thankfulness, however, is is a reaction — like when we were kids and woke up on Christmas morning to find a shiny, new red bicycle next to the Christmas tree. Your eyes light up, you stroke the handlebars, and look over at your Dad. He has a huge smile on his face, and your Mom says, “Say ‘Thank You’ to your father, dear, he picked it out.” You rush over and give your Dad a huge hug. You just expressed thankfulness.

Gratitude is a bit different. While being thankful is an emotion, gratitude is an appreciation, under any circumstance in daily life, even when nothing happy or exciting is happening. It’s the quality of being thankful, showing appreciation for what comes your way, an eagerness to return kindness. 

Gratitude requires a positive attitude. It’s formed by the choices we make and how we react to the world around us. When we brush off disappointment or rude comments, we maintain a positive attitude. Our attitude is also influenced by how well we ignore negative self-talk, and accept our current circumstances.

When something good or exciting happens, it is easy to be thankful. We appreciate the warm feelings that come with gifts or happy news. Thankfulness involves how we feel in the moment, and like all feelings, eventually, it fades. Thankfulness is a temporary emotional response to a temporary circumstance. 

Gratitude is a chosen state of being, even when nothing exciting happens. A study from the University of California Berkeley states, that when put into practice, gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions and has a lasting effect on the brain.

So this Thanksgiving week, try a little Gratitude with dinner.

  • Thankfulness fades-Gratitude remains
  • Gratitude deepens our inner connections
  • Gratitude improves longterm relationships

Practicing gratitude is something to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving week from us at the Stewardship Foundation!


After almost two years of quiet “pandemic worthy” Christmases, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and (knock on wood) it’s not a train.

Even Pope Francis is getting into the Christmas spirit with a contest that inspires young people to create new songs inspired by Christmas and its values. When asked what he hoped to achieve, the Pope said that music is “not alienating; it is neither superficial nor escapist. It broadens the heart, opens it to gratuitousness…” 

Fifty-six years ago, Pope St. Paul VI offered a similar message:

“This world in which we live needs beauty so as not to fall into despair.”

This Christmas, we wish you the beauty of giving back. We encourage ourselves, our families, our friends, colleagues and clients to set your sights on social causes that are in tune your own values, and to encourage others to do so as well.

A great way to give back is through philanthropy. If you think philanthropy is only for the rich and powerful, you’d be wrong. Philanthropy is something that anyone can do. All it takes is having the desire to promote the welfare of others and then achieving it by generously donating money to a good cause. 

There’s a difference between philanthropy and charity. For example, an act of charity is when you spot a homeless person on the street and give him five dollars. Philanthropy focuses on helping that homeless person solve the problems that required them to ask for a handout in the first place. Both are good. 

Philanthropy is long-term and strategic; it often involves making multiple gifts to help people over a number of years. As someone once said:

Delivering bottled water to a drought-stricken village in East Africa is charity, but philanthropy is building a well.

Our job at the Stewardship Foundation is to be good stewards with our donors’ money, and our skills as charitable gift consultants in a public foundation is proven. Please pass this along to a friend that may be interested in our services, and have a beautiful, quiet, spirit-filled, rich-in-spirit Christmas!