Reflection of the Week - 7th March 2023

By Henry Nouwen

Posted in Faith

How Gratitude Breaks the Chains of Resentment

The opposite of resentment is gratitude (from the Latin gra­tia = favour). Gratitude is more than an occasional ‘thanks be to God.’ Gratitude is the attitude that enables us to let go of anger, receive the hidden gifts of those we want to serve, and make these gifts visible to the community as a source of celebration.

Gratitude is at the heart of celebration and ministry.

When I think about what it means to live and act in the name of Jesus, I realise that what I have to offer to others is not my intelligence, skill, power, influence, or connections, but my own human brokenness, through which the love of God can manifest itself. Ministry is entering with our human brokenness into communion with others and speaking a word of hope. The great paradox of ministry is that when we minister in our weakness, we receive from those to whom we go. The more in touch we are with our own need for healing and salvation, the more open we are to receiving in gratitude what others have to offer us.

When I was studying Spanish in Cochabamba, Bolivia, I met Lucha, one of the maids working in the Instituto de Idiomas. We did not speak about God or religion, but her smile, her kindness, the way she corrected my Spanish, and her stories about her children created a sense of spiritual jealousy in me. I kept thinking: ‘I wish I had the purity of heart of this woman. I wish I could be as simple, open, and gentle as she is. I wish I could be as in touch.’ But then I realised that maybe she didn’t know what she was giving me. Thus my ministry to her was to allow her to show me the Lord in her own gentle manner, and gratefully to acknowledge what I was receiving.

True liberation is freeing people from the bonds that have prevented them from giving their gifts to others. This is true not only for individual people but also — particularly — for certain ethnic, cultural, or marginalised groups. What does mission to the Indians or Bolivians or disabled persons really mean? Isn’t it foremost to discover with them their own deep religiosity, their profound faith in God’s active presence in history, and their understanding of the mystery of nature that surrounds them?

It is hard for me to accept that the best I can do is probably not give but receive. By my receiving in a true and open way, those who give to me can become aware of their own gifts. After all, we come to recognise our own gifts in the eyes of those who receive them gratefully. Gratitude thus becomes the central virtue of a Christian. The Greek word charis means ‘gift’ or ‘grace.’ And what else is the Eucharistic life but a life of gratitude?

Excerpt from ‘Spiritual Formation,’ by Henri Nouwen, Harper Collins (2010). Source:

How Gratitude Breaks the Chains of Resentment - Henri J.… | Renovaré (

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