Theologians and psychologists alike extol the value of gratitude in promoting spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being. Most of us would recognize gratitude as a virtue, but what does gratitude imply? What conditions surround our gratitude? What things stand in the way of feeling thankful?
It seems to me that gratitude is dependent on a significant measure of humility. In order to be truly thankful for our blessings, we cannot simultaneously feel proud and boastful about them, believing that we deserve them as something we either earned or are entitled to because of special birth status. Such a sense of accomplishment or rightful entitlement does not engender a sense of true thankfulness. Instead it causes the one who enjoys blessings to feel personally exalted.
A sense of gratitude grows out of an associated awareness that our blessings are often, if not almost exclusively, a matter of happenstance, blind luck if you will. The person so blessed by random chance can take full advantage of their fortunate circumstances to further enhance their well being, but that does not alter the fact that the initial advantage was not the result of anything they did or accomplished. A gracious and grateful heart will always acknowledge the unwarranted nature of their blessed state. In noting the less fortunate, less likeable, less successful, the solemn declaration of "there but for the grace of God go I" is ever present in the mind of the truly thankful. I cannot be thankful for what I insist is my personal accomplishment, something I earned, in effect.
This is the very reason why a church taught salvation by personal accomplishment, i.e. doing anything, works against creating a truly thankful heart. Adherence to church doctrine is all about doing, succeeding, winning in relation to divine rules and procedures, the very elements which define what we know as accomplishment or achievement. Such is the basis for all human pride and arrogance, a feeling of superiority and the associated dismissal of others as lacking. An achieved salvation may be labeled "grace" by the church and sold as a reason to be grateful, but the human propensity to relish personal accomplishment too readily subverts gratitude in favor of prideful self righteousness.