Practice These Principles
Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery

The Virtue of Gratitude

Gratitude disposes us to see every good as the gift of a loving God, and to want to give of ourselves in response. As alcoholics, our gratitude is founded on the gift of sobriety, the first miracle and the first blessing in recovery, for we have been relieved from our deadly obsession by the grace of God.

We practice gratitude through the disciplines of prayer and meditation in Step 11 and of service in Step 12. Growing conscious of God’s grace, we give thanks for a new day upon awakening; for the good we discern in all things in the course of our day; and for blessings received upon retiring at day's end.

And out of gratitude to God for every gift, we look for opportunities to do good and to render service to others, freely giving what has been freely given us. 

[Image: Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Calvary Episcopal Church pastor, who as head of NYC Oxford Group where Rowland H. and Ebby T. got sober transmitted basics of AA program to Bill W.]


“I try hard to hold fast to the truth that a full and thankful heart cannot entertain great conceits. When brimming with gratitude, one’s heartbeat must surely result in outgoing love, the finest emotion we can ever know.” – Bill W., in ABSI

“To this end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all.” – Big Book

“When by devoted service to family, friends, business, or community we attract widespread affection and are sometimes singled out for posts of greater responsibility and trust, we try to be humbly grateful and exert ourselves the more in a spirit of love and service.” – 12&12

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What do you have that you did not receive?” – 1 Corinthians 4:7


“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” 
– Epicurus 


“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart

"Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don't receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us . . . Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” – Thomas Merton

“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” – Thornton Wilder


“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.” – Neal A. Maxwell

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." – Epictetus

"Joy is the simplest form of gratitude." – Karl Barth

“There but for the grace of God go I.” – John Bradford

"A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much
as he deserves." – Henry Ward Beecher

"In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated."
– William James

“He that hastens to repay is animated with a sense, not of gratitude, but of indebtedness . . . he . . . is an unwilling debtor, and an unwilling debtor is ungrateful.” – Seneca

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” – G.K. Chesterton

“Because gratitude is the key to happiness, anything that undermines gratitude must undermine happiness. And nothing undermines gratitude as much as expectations. There is an inverse relationship between expectations and gratitude: The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have.” – Dennis Prager

“I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind. I should not be ungrateful to those teachers.”
– Kahlil Gibran


“The greatest challenge is not slavery but freedom; not poverty but affluence; not danger but security; not homelessness but home. The paradox is that when we have most to thank G-d for, that is when we are in greatest danger of not thanking—nor even thinking of—G-d at all.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

“A person that is spirit-filled is always and in all things giving thanks.” – Tim Keller

“Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.” – Richelle E. Goodrich

“Grateful eyes seek for the beauty in all things.” – Anonymous


"Gratitude helps us to see what is there, instead of what isn't."
– Anonymous

“The Struggle ends when gratitude begins.” – Neale Donald Walsch

“It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.” – Anonymous

“The most beautiful way to start and end the day is with a grateful heart.” – Anonymous

“My love of God and others became the motivation factor in my life, with no thought of return. I realize now that giving freely is God’s way of expressing Himself through me.” – AA’s Daily Reflections

“Contentment comes from accepting gratefully the good that comes to us, and not from raging at life because it is not better.” – O
ne Day at A Time in Al-Anon

“Seek diligently for something to be glad and thankful about. You will acquire in time the habit of being constantly grateful to God for all His blessings.”
Twenty-Four Hours a Day

“Gratitude becomes spiritual, a spiritual virtue and a spiritual emotion, when we are moved in our response by a God-centered view of the three: gift, recipient, and giver." – PTP

“Saying that 'I am a grateful alcoholic' will then reflect the truth about who we have become in our person, having understood deeply and intimately that God in his grace can turn any evil, any pain we have suffered or inflicted, to good purpose." – PTP

For more PTP passages on gratitude, click excerpts and see book pp. 26, 29, 55–58.
See also "I'm Grateful to Be Sober, But . . ." in "Reflections." For more BB and 12&12
passages, click on and search grateful, thanks, and gift. See
also entries in As Bill Sees It.

Additional Resources

  1. "Privileged People," in As Bill Sees It, p.133

  2. Reflection for March 25 and May 21 in AA's Daily Reflections

  3. “Gratitude,” chapter in Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues, by Robert C. Roberts

  4. “Being Thankful: The Virtue of Gratitude,” chapter in How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad: Living a Life of Christian Virtue, by James S. Spiegel

  5. Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, the novel and the 2005 BBC Masterpiece Theater film version (the character of Esther Summerson, played by Anna Maxwell Martin)

For other posts on the virtues and the disciplines, please click on Practice These.