Gratitude as an Altruistic Experience

Gratitude as an Altruistic Experience

Is Gratitude A Selfish Practice?

Gratitude might seem like it is a selfish practice that only counts the blessings that we already have and even sometimes considers others not as lucky as we are – just think of how many times someone told you you should be grateful for the food on your table because other do not have it. That is introducing a negative aspect into your life, while at the same time, makes you look down upon the situation of another, rather than feeling empathetic. A gratitude practice like that, is neither helpful nor compassionate, even if it seems to so on the service, as it only highlights the plight of others.


"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others." Cicero


However, if you are choosing to use gratitude as an altruistic tool, it becomes an uplifting experience not only for you but for whoever receives the energy and attention from it.

Examples of Altruistic Gratitude

  1. You are at a restaurant, and the waiter is being extra helpful to a table next to you, an older person or child needed extra attention and they received it. Immediately and specifically thank the waiter for doing such a beautiful and kind job, and make sure that this praise is heard by others, not because it showcases your ability for being grateful, but it boosts the attention that a person gets for being a good person and doing the right thing. You have now given gratitude in a completely selfless way – which in turn, does make you feel good.
  2. Your child is struggling to study for a difficult exam, and even if he or she does not get the answers correctly, you recognize the effort that they are putting into the situation. You immediately praise the effort and show your appreciation for their focus and resilience. You could have gotten frustrated with the fact that they did not get this seemingly easy concept, but instead, you focused on sharing gratitude for the fact that they are trying, and therefore you are boosting their motivation to try even harder. You both won.

Therefore, if you were held back by the notion that making a list of things to be grateful for might be only a selfish act of taking stock, you may want to try to incorporate more and more of the deliberate act of altruistic gratitude.

Recommended Reading:

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  1. Being grateful to others and letting them know you’re grateful for them is an important life skill. Nowadays people through around the word thank you even if they don’t mean it. I’m curious about your opinion on forced gratitude. For example if a parent forces you to say thank you to them or someone else when they did something you didn’t want. My mom did this to me a lot when I was younger. She would fold my laundry for me even though she knew I didn’t like her doing that, because my OCD required my clothes to be folded a certain way and then she would demand I thank her for what she did. I tried to explain to her the thank yous should only be given if they are genuine so that the value of those words don’t go away. She never listened.

    1. Author

      thank you for sharing your story, and asking this question. I do not believe in forced gratitude at all. I believe in modeling gratitude. What you’re mom did (while most likely not ill-intended) is just one example of how a child can resent saying thank you or showing any kind of appreciation openly. Instead, I suggest that a parent should make gratitude lists in front of their children, maybe even let them decorate a journal, in which the parent can write all of the gratitude lists. Another example is to model altruistic gratitude in front of them, AND most importantly direct it toward them. 

      Just like any spiritual practice – and I consider gratitude a spiritual practice – force makes people retaliate, gentle conversations and modeling does not. 

      Many blessings! 

  2. Learning about altruistic gratitude is a topic I never though existed. But we apply it daily. Educating ourself about being grateful to others by being altruistic benefits our mental health. 

    Sometimes, just mentioning someone of a good action such: thanking my daughter for giving me the attention to discuss her behavior around some friends, makes a different in both of us; now I understand a bit more.

  3. Hey there!
    That quote was amazing. I never realized I’ve always been offering a selfish gratitude all this while, until now. This has just broaden my idea about gratitude. I’ll make sure every gratitude i make or show henceforth motivates and encourages others in the area of occurence.
    Thanks for that piece of motivation.

  4. With gratitude, people see and acknowledge the goodness in their lives. … Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, deal with diversity, improve in health, and build strong relationships. People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. Thanks for sharing this awesome article i know it would be of great help to a lot of persons.

  5. I do not know why a person should want to think that being thankful for anything is something that is selfish. I love to be grateful because a certain proverb says that when a person is grateful for a favour done today, there is more blessings and favour to come tomorrow so if I can be blessed by being thankful then I would forever be.

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