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Appearing on Conan O'Brien's show last year, comedian Louis C. K. lamented how frustrated people get when cell phones and cross-country flights are slow or faulty. "Everything is amazing right now and nobody's happy," he said. When people complain that their flight boarded 20 minutes late or that they had to sit on the runway for 40 minutes before takeoff, he asks a few additional questions.

"Oh really, what happened next? Did you fly through the air, incredibly, like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight?"

The appearance hit a nerve—with over a million YouTube views and counting—because it's true: Whether it's our impatience with technology or, more likely, with family members and friends, our complaints reflect how much we take for granted.

We know that God has given us our bodies and souls, reason and senses, material possessions, and relationships. Yet with all that God richly provides us daily, many of us struggle to be grateful.

This isn't just impious, it is also unhealthy. Studies show that grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. They are more forgiving and supportive than those who are ungrateful. They are less depressed, stressed, envious, and anxious. In fact, high levels of gratitude explain more about psychological well-being than 30 of the most commonly studied personality traits, according to two recent studies published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The Roman philosopher Cicero was on to something when he said, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others." It's also the basic Christian attitude. Paul tells the Thessalonians to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is ...

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In the Magazine

November 2010

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