click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​



Why do we focus on the spaces in our lives instead of the abundance?


According to the research (1), those who write daily gratitude lists are twice as happy as the rest of the population. So why is gratitude so hard?

Even as we write our gratitude lists, we throw in the word 'but' and think ungrateful thoughts:

Thank You for my house, but it's really not big enough.

Thank You for my children, but not their tantrums

Thank You for the food, but not the calories

Thanks for the job, but I really should be promoted by now

Thanks for the sunny day, but not for the heat and the broken air conditioner

Thanks for the clothing, but I can't find anything to wear

Thanks for helping me to find my soul mate, but why isn't he perfect?

Thanks for the vacation, but not the traffic

Thanks for the new shoes, but not the blisters

Thanks for my health, but not for my aching knee

Thanks for the baby, but not the dirty diapers

Thanks for the wisdom, but not the obligation to use it

Thanks for my life, but not when it's hard

The reason why we don't say thank You is because we focus on the spaces in our lives instead of on the abundance. We see the dent in our fenders instead of appreciating that we have a car. We remember the insensitive comment from our spouses instead of remembering the countless acts of kindness in our marriages.

We will always have a list of the ‘buts' and the ‘shoulds' in our lives, and they never help us. Negativity and complaints limit us. When we wake up and try to say thank You for another day, that whining voice that rises within us all, shouts: Thanks, but no thanks.

We expect to have all of our needs provided for, but do we pause to express gratitude when our prayers are answered?

I recently heard the following true story: The head of a medical organization and a wealthy donor went together to the Western Wall. When they approached the Wall they saw a man crying his heart out. They watched him for a few moments, moved by his intense prayer. The two men decided to approach the sobbing man after he finished praying. The head of the medical organization said that he would offer medical help if it was needed, and the wealthy donor decided that he would offer financial help if it was needed.

When they asked if anyone was sick, the man said, "No, everyone in my family is healthy."

When they asked if he needed financial help, the man said, "No, I have everything that I need."

The two men were baffled. "So why are you crying?"

"I am so overwhelmed by God's kindness, I can't hold back my tears."

And with tears in his eyes, the man looked up and said, "My youngest child just got married. I have 12 children. Can you believe the kindness that God has done for me? Twelve precious jewels who are now all building their own homes? I came here to say thank You. And I am so overwhelmed by God's kindness, I can't hold back my tears."

Authentic gratitude eliminates the ‘buts' on our lists:

Thank You for my home

Thank You for my spouse

Thank You for my children

Thank You for my car

Thank You for my job

Thank You for my life


If we can find that place within us that feels the true abundance in our lives, we will also be able to give more to each other. One night Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller was at a Jerusalem supermarket. It was very crowded, and there were no shopping carts left. Rebbetzin Heller asked a man at the register if she could have his cart after he finished his shopping. The man agreed and Rebbetzin Heller followed him outside, thinking that he was going to put his groceries into his car. She was shocked to discover that he was headed towards his bicycle.

He proceeded to load up the bicycle with his cart full of groceries, and when he finished Rebbetzin Heller tried to give him the five shekel coin needed for the cart. He refused. "So many people in there look really stressed. Keep the five shekel and the next person who needs a cart will also feel a little less stressed."

This was not a rich man. He didn't have a car. He didn't even have enough money to have groceries delivered to his home. But he was filled with a sense of abundance -- he had enough to bring home groceries for his family. And from this place of abundance, he began a chain of kindness that spilled over to others.

1. Sheldon, K.M and Lyubomirsky, S (2006a) "How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves" The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 73-82

November 22, 2008

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 12

(12) pamela, December 25, 2008 10:48 AM

thanks for the reminder

I love being reminded of all the blessing that have been bestowed upon me in my life. All my stressors melted away when i read this and took inventory of all I have to be grateful for: my wonderful husband and children, mother,sisters,in-laws, friends, neighbors, teachers, tutors, employees, rabbi(s), aunts, cousins and on and on and on

(11) Claudemiro, December 11, 2008 12:54 PM

It made my day

This article made my day. I was feeling sad because I have a lot of money in the bank but it is not enough to pay a terrific vocation trip. I was wondering something like this: "Oh, how much money! But it makes no difference at all. It is no enough to travel along the brazilian coast this summer. Prices are too high. Now I know that I must say "Thank you for all the money" and let the "buts" go. Thank you so much. Claudemiro - Brazil

(10) Rachel, November 29, 2008 10:38 PM

I really appreciate this article

I really was touched by this article and it makes me think that i should even thank Hashem for the books and articles that He brings my way,in which help me become a better person. Also, thanking Hashem can increase your love and connection to Him.

(9) Dvirah, November 26, 2008 8:55 AM

Reversing the "But"

Another route to gratitude is to reverse the "but" - whenever I find myself complaining, I look for some redeming feature to be greatful for: eg, "the house is small, but it is rainproof" or "my knee aches, but I can still walk with it." This process leaves one with a grateful thought rather than a complaining one.

(8) Aaron, November 25, 2008 4:25 AM


A great piece. I smiled and nodded as I read every paragraph, thanking G-d for my amazing wife and family.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment