Tawana Bain, publisher of Today’s Woman magazine

I’VE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO UNDERSTAND NOR ACCEPT UNGRATEFULNESS. It seems like it should be synonymous with committing one of the seven deadly sins.

Science tells us gratitude is a learned behavior, but if this is true why hasn’t everybody learned it? In my experiences with people, I believe some are more inclined to embrace the concept of gratitude than others. I think gratitude is a gift: either you desire to have it or you make excuses about why you don’t. I also believe some people have a limited understanding of what constitutes this valuable characteristic. Gratitude is about more than saying thank you. It is an emotion that moves you to demonstrate your gratefulness through words and reciprocity.

Consider how you would feel if you extended kindness to someone but their acknowledgement was accompanied by critique, criticism or a suggestion of what would have made your kind gesture more appealing to them or how you could have done more. Many times, I’ve heard: “Can you believe their response to me trying to help? Or I can’t believe how they treated me for just trying to be kind.” While it would be natural for me to be shocked by their story, I am not — especially when they say that a person close to them showed ungratefulness. Typically, it’s those closest to us who take our generosity for granted. I am not suggesting that we should expect special treatment or acknowledgement every time we are kind to someone. Kindness should be authentic and organic — without expectation of anything in return. However, being condemned for helping or showing unselfishness isn’t OK.

Also, being grateful or reciprocating a good deed does not have to be tied to something tangible. Sometimes I find gratitude in special bonds that have been formed with people I’ve met later in life, or someone genuinely interested in getting to know me. If you want to express your gratitude to someone, there are many ways to do it. Take them out to dinner, send a thoughtful gift along with a note. Or make a quick phone call to let them know how their generosity has made a difference in your life. Mention them to others when they are not present. Surprise them with recognition. These are simple steps you can take toward honoring the people who have consistently been there for you.

But there is another aspect of gratitude that can be easily forgotten. While you might practice gratitude regularly, being grateful doesn’t mean you won’t have moments of weakness. Sometimes — despite our best intentions — we can have gratitude amnesia when we let envy take control.

Ten years ago, I met a beautiful, witty and extremely outgoing woman, and I immediately disliked her! I barely had a conversation with her, yet felt the dislike grow quickly. Confused and taken aback by my response to someone who had done absolutely NOTHING to me, I recall asking myself, ‘what is there not to like and where is this emotion coming from?’

Privately embarrassed and equally humored, I realized that I felt this way because she possessed characteristics that I admired and wanted to possess. I then doubled down by questioning and doing some self-reflection. Was she to blame because she was beautiful? Was it her fault that she was blessed with a cool sense of humor, a genuine heart and a no-nonsense boss demeanor that could demand attention in any room? My response was no. It became evident to me that it’s normal for jealousy to creep in, but it’s up to us to serve it an eviction notice before it takes up residence. I say normal because there is nothing wrong with valuing yourself to the extent that when you see another person’s blessings you recognize that you too want to be blessed and deserve the best, but it is equally as important to remember it’s not that person’s fault because your blessing has not manifested yet.

Eventually, I discovered that people like her exist as an example of who we can become and what we can have. The more we practice and operate from an abundance mindset, the more abundance we will experience. The same holds true for those operating from a scarcity mindset.

Most importantly, it gave me the ability to identify when other women were hating on me and to not take it personally. I now know she values herself. I know she deserves more and has not yet mastered the abundance mindset. It truly is a muscle that must be exercised regularly to ensure your level of gratitude is in tip top shape. Ultimately this experience reminded me to be grateful for what I have instead of concentrating on what I didn’t have. I understood that gratitude isn’t only about expressing gratefulness for what someone has given to you. We can be grateful that someone else has found success, because it expands our territory and prepares us for abundance. This month, take time to reflect on what gratitude means to you and if practicing it is challenging for you, start small. A little bit of effort goes a long way.

P.S. Publisher Tawana Bain talks about how this is our time to get it right.