True Gratitude Means Being Grateful in EVERY Circumstance

Marisa Fienup, 4word advisory board member and Senior Director of Product Management for Tandem Diabetes, kicks off this month’s discussion on gratitude by sharing practical ways you can show you’re grateful, no matter the situation.

You can listen to this conversation with Marisa on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

How do you define gratitude? 

If you look up the word gratitude, the definition you’ll find is ‘the quality of being thankful and a readiness to show, appreciation for and to return kindness.’ In my opinion, this does not do the concept of gratitude nearly enough justice! Gratitude is so much more than being thankful. Gratitude is a way of thinking. It’s an attitude, and a posture or a way of worshiping and praising God. It’s a culture that you create and it’s a way of engaging with those around you.

Some of my favorite definitions of gratitude are from some of my favorite Christian authors. John Ortberg says, ‘Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift.’ And Mark Batterson says, ‘Gratitude is the genesis and revelation of God’s blessing.’ Finally, and maybe as a setup to everything we’re going talk about, I think Tim Keller actually said it best: ‘It is one thing to be grateful. It is another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel and Thanksgiving is what you do.’ 

How do you put gratitude into practice in your life? 

I think there are three dimensions to putting gratitude into practice. You have to feel gratitude, you have to see things to be grateful for, and you have to show gratitude in terms of feeling it. I have to make a conscious effort to orient my way of thinking to one of blessing. As I mentioned, Tim Keller said that gratitude is an emotion. It’s important to recognize how essential faith is to shaping our emotions. I avidly read the devotional Jesus Calling. I love it because it’s written in the first person with Jesus speaking directly to you. There have been in Jesus Calling, I read some great words on gratitude just this month, like, ‘Never take for granted my intimate nearness’ and ‘When life feels out of control, thank me. This is a supernatural response that will lift you above your circumstances.’ 

If you do what comes naturally in the face of difficulties, you may fall prey to negativism. Even a few complaints can send you on a downward spiral. Rejoice in this day that God has made, trusting that He is abundantly present in it instead of regretting or resenting the way things are. Feeling gratitude means being grateful in every circumstance. Feeling gratitude is also synonymous with the peace and joy that comes from a deep faith, and I try to be grounded in that daily. I also like to see it. There is something to be grateful for every moment of every day. If you really step back and think about it, there are infinite opportunities to see things to be grateful for. 

In our world, we live in a time and a place where it is easy to take all of these things for granted. Seeing and acknowledging all the ways people, my family, and my coworkers have positively shaped my world is a catalyst to healthy relationships. Attempting to see all the ways that God is blessing me each day is a catalyst to deepening my faith. As I’ve grown in my walk, I’ve discovered that writing things down formalizes thoughts and emotions, and journaling gratitude is a great way to see all the ways God is working in my life and can be galvanizing when I’m in times of struggle.

It is essential to express thankfulness to God, to coworkers, and to family. These expressions can be small, like simply saying thank you. They could also be more formal, like writing notes or making public proclamations. Everyone—including God—appreciates being appreciated. I don’t think you can express too much gratitude.  

How can gratitude transform your relationships with others?

Have you ever made a situation worse by being grateful? Feeling gratitude and expressing thanks can manifest a warmth that can soften tense situations, draw others closer to you, and build trust that will elevate your relationships. We are designed by God to be a blessing to others in relationships and interactions. Your response will determine outcomes and being grateful will always yield a better outcome.

Gratitude is also a form of outreach. Grateful people make God shine. Our opportunity to be grateful to others is infinite. Take time to notice people who have affected your life in a positive way. Make sure to find and thank those who left positive fingerprints on your life. The more effort it takes, the bigger the blessing. 

What can gratitude look like within companies or organizations? 

I have a fun story for this one! I was working for a leading medical device company that wanted to go through organizational change. We hired consultants who brought in a program where they taught us to say ‘Thank you for your partnership.’ At the time, I thought it was the hokiest thing, but now I use this phrase all the time and I notice when I start to say it, others start to say it. Creating a culture of gratitude starts with recognizing the basic blessing of engaging with your coworkers. ‘Thank you for your partnership’ is so simple and yet, those simple words soften people, make them easier to work with and solve problems for, and make it much easier to sort through conflict. 

Almost every company I’ve worked for typically has a recognition system, a way for employees to acknowledge each other and for managers to reward and thank individuals or teams. In my opinion, these programs are nice formal ways to show gratitude, but the transformation is woven in at a much more basic level. Gratitude in an organization means individuals are routinely expressing appreciation for all the little things time shared in meetings. Thank you for your time, progress toward goals, thank you for getting us there, etc. Organizations are complex. There is a reason why there is an entire industry devoted to organizational change! In organizations where people appreciate each other, it’s difficult to have infighting and it’s much easier to have transparent communication and much more straightforward to trust each other and to build efforts to accomplish incredible things. 

Marisa Fienup currently serves as Senior Director of Product Management for Tandem Diabetes driving a digital and hardware product pipeline focused on reducing burden and improving quality of life for diabetes patients.

Marisa has a 20+ year career in the Life Sciences space leading global portfolios for large drug and device companies such as Baxter, Edwards Lifesciences, and Medtronic as well as identifying and implementing growth strategies for smaller privately held organizations.  Her passion is aligning unmet needs with strategic choices and motivating cross functional teams to implement.  Prior to her career in Life Sciences, Marisa also worked for Ford Motor company in manufacturing and marketing roles.   

Marisa holds an MBA from the University of Michigan, and a BS Degree from Purdue University.  She lives in Southern California with her husband and two boys.  In her free time, she can be found outside rock climbing, kayaking, skiing, or cheering her sons on at a baseball game.