I hate ingratitude more in a man Than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, Or any taint of vie whose strong corruption Inhabits our frail blood.
William Shakespeare QuotesSource: Twelfth Night, or, What You Will (Viola at III, iv)
My Facebook news feed is starting to fill up with the “I’m thankful for…” and “gratitude journal…” posts. I think the initial impulse for that is a good thing, even though I would believe them more if someone posted stuff like that in April or May. Saying “Thank you” is polite and expressing gratitude for small everyday things is a healthy approach to life.
My observation with all these public thank you’s, however, is that gratitude isn’t a zero sum game. In other words, saying thank you and even expressing gratitude for one small thing doesn’t do anything to erase or modify the ingratitude that we display in other areas of our lives. Teaching my children the courtesy of saying thank you does not make them grateful.
Some of the most ungrateful people I’ve ever known are also some of the most polite and courteous in public. Whether you say thank you or not isn’t a measure of your gratitude or ingratitude. It’s a measure or your politeness.
Ingratitude is nearly impossible to recognize in oneself and others will rarely point out the flaw. That’s because when we are being polite, we think we are being grateful.
I see ingratitude as a pervasive disease in our society that feeds the general malaise of self-righteousness, arrogance, misunderstanding, entitlement and hate. Ingratitude is also sometimes hard to recognize because it often masquerades as something else…something virtuous if you live in a bubble of your own making.
He that’s ungrateful has no guilt but one; All other crimes may pass for virtues in him.
Edward Young QuotesSource: Busiris
People are most ungrateful when they forget, or when they fail to see. Here’s how I see ingratitude expressed today in those I interact with on a regular basis:
- Atheists who fail to recognize any positive impulses coming from religion (I’d be ungrateful if I didn’t admit my own ingratitude first).
- Publicly educated persons recoiling in horror at public health care solutions.
- Racial minorities who have only fairly recently gained their “inalienable” rights to equal protection under the law, marry whomever they want, and yet vote to deny those same privileges to the next class of undesirables.
- Partners who adore their children but don’t like sex.
- Formerly persecuted religious organizations with once unpopular marital and family practices seeking aggressively to deny to others the very same rights they once lobbied for themselves.
- A religious following that claims to be justified in calling itself “Christian” because its followers believe in the biblical Christ and yet denies the term “Mormon” to anyone else who also believes in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.
- Folks who trust science enough to get lasik eye surgery, boob jobs and allow it to save their lives but reject any scientific evidence when it questions their truth claims
- Expressing gratitude for Jesus Christ because He supposedly forgives “sins” (actions that the sinner and God both agree to be wrong)… and yet failing to overlook the imaginary wrongdoings in neighbors that only they perceive as “sins.”
- An ex-wife asking for a religious approval to a new wedding/sealing which is essentially religious respect for a new family … and yet feeling no remorse or regret for having caused violence to her children’s family of origin by moving them 6 hours away from their father.
- Relishing the “mercy” of a God for forgiving personal “sins”, and yet staunchly enforcing the “justice” and “obedience” side of the equation in their dealings with others.
- Claiming oneself as a self-made success without acknowledging the laws, regulation and social structure that made the climb to success even possible.
- Someone who has a job ridiculing the desperate activities of a person without a job.
- Natural born white Americans who despise immigrants (legal or illegal).
The funny thing that just struck me about ingratitude is that it is in one sense a failure of accurate accounting. It’s natural to only see one side of the ledger while completely ignoring the other one, especially if the entries were made in years past by someone else (that’s about as close as I’ll ever get to an accounting analogy…the only college course I both dropped and then later flunked out of on the retry).
Studies show that gratitude is a unique predictor of well-being and requires an ability to process and appreciate the positive in life. Grateful people get better sleep for example (Hehehe I loved reading that – I sleep like a baby while my ex-wife suffers insomnia).
Whatever the case, thank you for reading this blog and for commenting… I’ve been blogging for a year and 3 months now and it has been one of the wisest, most personally helpful coping strategies I’ve undertaken. I feel like I’ve grown enormously in the last year. While I’ve always been grateful for my children, I wouldn’t have been able to say any of the following sentences one year ago; but I can today with genuine thankfulness:
- I’m grateful for the positive aspects of my Mormon upbringing.
- I’m grateful that my ex-wife is in many respects a loving mother.
- I’m grateful for the distance between my ex-wife and I.
- I’m grateful that I am a gay man and not straight.
One ungrateful man does an injury to all who are suffering.
Syrus (Publilius Syrus) QuotesSource: Maxims