How Grateful are Americans?
Article by Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas and Jeremy Adam Smith
Read the Full Article Here

Recent research by the Greater Good shows that Americans think gratitude is important even though they are not very good at showing it. As a part of this research on the science of gratitude, a national survey of 2,000 people was conducted looking at how grateful those in the U.S. feel, how often they express gratitude, and how grateful they perceive others. Of those polled, “more than 90% agreed that grateful people are more fulfilled, lead richer lives, and are more likely to have friends.” The results of this survey also showed an association between being religious and greater feelings of gratitude.

Sermons can highlight the importance of gratitude in our lives by sharing the research on the benefits of gratitude, telling stories of thanksgiving from scripture and from the community, and offering ways to cultivate gratitude in the lives of parishioners. Sermons can also use this research to challenge people’s tendency to notice our own efforts to say thanks while missing others’ efforts as they express gratitude.

“Americans are very grateful and they think gratitude is important—they’re just not very good at expressing it.”

-Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas and Jeremy Adam Smith

What to Consider

  • If those who work and live with you were asked, how often would they say you expressed gratitude to those around you?
  • What evokes the strongest feelings of gratitude in you life? Job? Family? Friends? Technology? Possessions? Experiences?
  • How do you express gratitude to those around you? Do you show gratitude differently in different relationships?
  • What do you think contributes to the survey results that show “being religious was associated with greater feelings of gratitude?”

How to Go Deeper

  • Provide time in a service for stories of thanksgiving. You might ask some people to come prepared to share a story or ask for impromptu stories.
  • Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20-25, and tell how 95% of respondents believe it is important for parents to teach their children to be grateful. Encourage parents to recount their stories of gratitude with their children. Share these seven ideas on fostering gratitude in kids as additional ways to teach children about gratitude throughout the week.
  • This study found that despite most people believing that they themselves are more grateful than they were 10 years ago, a majority of people think others are less grateful. Read Matthew 7:1-5 and talk about how focusing on the “speck” in others’ eyes prevents us from seeing the “log” in our own eyes. Offer some ideas to help parishioners step outside themselves and walk in another person’s shoes.


Relevant Scripture

All references in parenthesis refer to Lectionary readings. For more information on what the Lectionary is, please click here. For additional Lectionary resources click here.

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About the Author:

Zach is currently a PhD student at Fuller Theological Seminary researching the role of leaders in congregational change. His calling in life is to train and equip pastors to faithfully lead local congregations. When not studying, he'll most likely be watching Sporting Kansas City score goals or hiking with his wife and two kids.


  1. Weabz April 5, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Gratitude is sadly a lost attribute among Americans and worse even among Christians. We live in a “self-focused” and “I deserve what I want when I want it” culture and we even tend to rest God as such by praying for what we “want” or think is best and then throw it up to Him wrapped in worthless phrases (because our heart doesn’t mean them) like “your will be done”. Then when His will IS done we get all upset and the thankfulness He deserves for working sanctification and His blessings in our lives He never receives. Why? Because we didn’t really want His will but our own. So we then enter contention with the Lord instead of being thankful at all times in all circumstances, knowing God is working out all for our good and His purposes.

    Let’s be people of thankfulness, because we have a savior and Great High Priest, who can sympathize with us and is making intercession for us. What more is there to be thankful for?

    Thanks for the thoughtful article. Such an important topic for the American Christian especially

    • AustinF May 22, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Totally, this is seen in the modern interpretation of Philippians 4:13. Where Paul speaks of contentment, we take it to mean that we have the power to do anything we want as long as claim to be Christian.

    • AustinF May 22, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Also plays into 2 Corinthians 11-12 where Paul speaks on the value of knowing our weakness. The more we understand our weakness, the stronger Christ is in us and the more grateful we are for God’s sustaining/sufficient grace.

  2. JarrodCraw May 27, 2017 at 11:06 am

    The link to this article is broken…

    I agree that this is a timely assessment of our times. It’s very akin to greed: everyone agrees that greed is a bad thing, yet no one wants to admit that they’re greedy.

    I like the stress of application that this summary gives, as well: we can foster thanksgiving from the pulpit and hope that people will catch on.

  3. June 29, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    “90% polled agree that gratitude…. (several desirable benefits)” wow!

  4. August 29, 2017 at 3:01 am

    I would be curious to know what gratitude looks like in other countries– are people generally more grateful in the western or eastern parts of the world? developed versus underdeveloped? I would imagine that research would be very interesting.

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