Character: How grateful do you feel today?‘THANK YOU’ signs popped up around the streets of New Orleans at a Hurricane Katrina anniversary. The signs were adapted to thank a wide range of people who came to the city’s aid. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.Given the lamentations about the loss—or the corruption—of American character, one would think that Americans no longer have any core virtues. From what we’ve looked at so far this week, we know that’s not true. Kindness and fairness are strong and prevalent in America. These are the top two character strengths, as we discussed yesterday and the day before.

What’s next? What else is strong in America?

No. 3 is—honesty, according to the global survey of character strengths we’re relying on this week. Honesty is also near the top of the list for many countries, according to the study. But the fourth most important strength is not. In fact, this one usually doesn’t make it in the top five or even the top ten strengths in other nations around the world.

Can you guess No. 4? It’s gratitude. Gratitude is being aware of and thankful for the people in our lives, for the things we have, however modest, and for good things that happen around us. The top two character strengths—kindness and fairness—come under the virtues of humanity and justice, respectively. Gratitude comes under a different category—transcendence, the type of strengths that connect us to the larger universe and provide deeper meaning to our lives.

Gratitude can be cultivated, as we’ve discussed before. People who feel grateful are happier, healthier, and more resilient.

Are you surprised to see gratitude so high on the list?

What do you feel grateful for?

Tomorrow, I’ll start discussing what’s at the bottom of the list, the character strengths that are the weakest in America. Stay tuned!

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Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue.

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