Gratitude is an Action Word

I never gave gratitude much thought before I was sober. The word gets thrown around a lot when we talk about recovery. My basic understanding of what gratitude means to me and how it relates to my own sobriety has changed over the years. But why is it that we say ‘gratitude is an action word’?

What is gratitude?


The only time I ever talked about being grateful before I came into recovery was probably around Thanksgiving time. We would all go around the family dinner table and mention one or two things we were grateful for. For me, I usually picked something selfish, like my car, or anything else that I thought if I didn’t have my life would be terrible. What I am grateful for now has drastically changed since then. But first, what exactly is gratitude?

Well, if we are speaking literally, it’s not exactly an ‘action’ word:

grat·i·tude ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/ noun

the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

It’s the second part of that definition that really counts.

What is ‘Acting’ Grateful?


It’s easy enough to say that you are grateful for something, but acting like it is a completely different story. When I said I was grateful for my car, sure, I meant it. But I had little to no respect for the fact that my father not only gave me the car, but helped me take care of it, put gas in it when I needed it and even taught me how to drive it. I repaid him by betraying his trust and continued to pick up drugs, use and participate in other illicit activities in that car the very same night I told him I was grateful for it.

What I have found is that when you are grateful for something, you need to nurture that feeling with respectful actions, or else your words mean nothing. I was a very spoiled child and took much of what I had for granted. It wasn’t until I paid for my own car, insurance and gas when I got sober that I truly appreciated all the years that my father had helped me.

Feeling Grateful vs. Being Grateful


A lot of us can understand or relate to the feeling of gratitude. Everything from a fearful situation such as a car accident to a happy one like having a child can make us feel thankful for our lives. Most people can attest to the fact that this is a great feeling to have.


  • Debbie O-A
    Posted at 20:14h, 21 September Reply

    Thank you Derek for this awesome article. You are absolutely right, gratitude is an action word. Without the action, words don’t carry much weight.

    • Derek Free
      Posted at 13:21h, 22 September Reply

      You’re welcome, Debbie!

  • Sanjay
    Posted at 13:33h, 18 February Reply

    I must admit that I wasn’t sold on the first meeting. But I knew that those poeple had been though at least some of what I had been through and that was enough at the start. Truth be told I don’t get out to meetings as often as I’d like but the seed was planted long ago and the flower of sobriety is very much in bloom!

    • Howard Barker
      Posted at 14:48h, 18 February Reply

      Keep coming back! While you might not find a meeting that clicks right off the bat, there is definitely one out there that will resonate with you if you look for a little bit. One of the coolest things about recovery is that once the seed has been planted, all it takes is a little water and sunshine to get it to keep growing!

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