I came across some interesting statistics the other day in correlation to the world population surpassing 7,000,000,000. The accuracy may be questionable, but the message is crystal clear. It suggested that if we could reduce this population of 7 billion to a community of 100 people, each resident would represent 70,000,000 individuals. With all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:

  • The community would have 61 Asians, 13 Africans, 12 Europeans, nine Latin Americans, and five from the USA
  • 50 would be male, 50 would be female
  • 75 would be non-white; 25 white
  • 67 would be non-Christian (22 Muslims), 33 would be Christian with two Atheists
  • 50 would be malnourished with one dying of starvation and of the 50, 22 would be overweight
  • Two would be near birth, one near death and one would have HIV/AIDS
  • 80 would live in substandard housing, 33 would be without safe water, 39 would lack adequate sanitation and 24 would not have electricity
  • Six would control 50% of the world's wealth with five of them from the US
  • 48 would live on less than $2 a day with 20 of them living on half that
  • 17 would be unable to read or write
  • Three would have a college education
  • 33 people would have access to the Internet with 12 on Facebook

When we consider our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and service becomes glaringly apparent. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world. If you can attend religious meetings without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than three billion people in the world. If you have clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and food in the refrigerator you are richer than 75% of the world’s population. If you have spare change in a dish someplace, cash in your wallet, and money in the bank, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

As I ponder this data I conclude that my state isn’t too bad after all. By glancing at this bigger picture beyond my close knit little world, I am awestruck that I am where I am. Why me? What happened that I arrived in this condition? What did I do to be the beneficiary of so much of what this world has to offer? I have challenges, yes, but not like that of my fellow villagers. When I question, “why me?” it is not in discouragement or sorrow, but rather in awe and wonder that I have been so blessed. Interesting how my attitude shifts from one of resentment or even indifference to one of gratitude given this new viewpoint. My level of gratitude is more about my perspective and less about my actual condition.

The opposite of Gratitude is wrath and both are about how we choose to communication. I alone choose to communicate appreciation to all and for all, or to communicate anger and resentment to all. It’s all just a matter of perspective. The difference between a prayer of thanksgiving and a heated debate is perspective. The difference between kindness and cruelty is attitude. These examples are emotional extremes: one with words and the other with behaviors. Each is an intense form of communication. Both examples dramatically affect those on the receiving end of the exchange. It’s my choice to see things through the eye of gratitude or through one of resentment and anger. The difference is vantage point.

Gratitude is recognition and the communication of appreciation to everyone and everything for our current state of wellbeing, regardless of perceived “fairness.” The opposite is wrath, which is anger to all. Wrath begins as frustration and is about patience. Wrath is heartless communication. It is inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of anger and hatred leading to rage. It is the lasting emotion that results in generational feuds. It begins with frustration and impatience that escalates externally to violence, revenge, and cruelty, or internally to substance abuse and suicide.

This perspective goes back to how we view others. Acknowledging others and their needs increases in direct proportion as our concern for them grows. The importance of others to us varies by circumstance as well as age. The older we get the greater our relative concern and attention to others becomes. Gratitude is people-centered. It is about openly recognizing the significance of other people in our lives. The absence of gratitude is a self-obsessed focus. We alone choose to communicate positive or negative messages to those around us. These communications reveal our true nature.

Maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve our psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. Feelings of gratitude lead individuals to experience more energy, increased optimism, better social connections, and greater happiness when compared with those who do not consistently feel or express gratitude. Grateful people are less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy, or addicted. Research suggests that grateful people sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly, and have greater resistance to illness. These benefits are not restricted by age.  Children and young people who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches, and feel more satisfied with their friends, families, and school experiences. Feeling grateful or appreciative for someone or something actually attracts more of these same attributes and circumstances. Giving thanks can be beneficial to both the giver and the receiver. Gratitude is an acknowledgment that expresses kindness and contentment.

All standards of virtue can be strengthened through the implementation of gratitude. Gratitude is the power leading to peace. It sustains the process of acquiring these virtues, ensuring that they will not diminish. It also completes the cycle of the eight standards, reminding us of the need for continuous self-monitoring and improvement at all levels by expressing thanks for all circumstances. Gratitude enables us to remain humble. Gratitude is an action. As we acknowledge those who have touched our lives, we experience humility and interdependence. Delivering thanks in person can be particularly powerful.