Gratitude is an abused sentiment. Every day we are given reasons to be grateful but we don’t always see it, or it is ruined it with self pride. An ungrateful person is usually someone who has been given so many reasons to show gratitude that they become desensitized to the blessings all around them.
Like the little kid who gets such a huge pile of toys for Christmas every year that he can’t appreciate all of them, ungrateful people are always the ones who have the most to be grateful for. They go to a job that they may not like, blind to the fact that there are millions who don’t have a job. They live in a house that may be too small or not in the ideal neighborhood, and don’t notice the homeless in their own town. They have a refrigerator full of food and don’t hear the cries of the hungry. They may be fabulously successful and have everything they ever wished for, and are ungracious about it.
Gratitude is easy to blow off when times are good. Being given a jacket means more to the man who has none than it does to the man with a closet full of jackets. It should not be that way, nor should we devalue gratitude when it is offered to us.
There is a YouTube video of a hidden camera social experiment where a man pretending to be a homeless bum in ratty clothes went around offering money to random well-dressed people on the street, sort of like a “reverse beggar”. Only a few showed gratitude but did not accept the money. Most derided him and were offended that anyone would presume that they needed money in the first place. The most disturbing scene was when he offered cash to a guy in an expensive suit stepping out of a high end luxury car. The would-be beneficiary harshly berated the “homeless” donor and pointed out using numerous expletives that he was a man of great means.
It is a difficult video to watch, but it sadly illustrates that simply being nice to others does not in and of itself constitute a generous heart. The video points out, correctly, that many people are generous not out of love for their fellow man, but to burnish their own self importance. Outwardly generous but inwardly selfish people use charity as way to exert their perceived superiority over others. They are incapable of showing gratitude but expect others to show it to them. Just as it is wrong not to show gratitude for those who are kind to us, it is also wrong to not accept it when we are on the receiving end.
All major religions including Christianity believe in some form of karma. They may have different names and definitions for it, but they all support the concept that our actions, both good and bad, will come back to us in one form or another, possibly not in this lifetime. Christianity openly teaches that people who go around bragging about their good deeds perhaps unknowingly accept that feeling big and important in the short term is the only reward they will get…they have essentially cancelled out their own good karma. The humble gratitude of those we are generous to along with the promise of some in-kind compensation later (karma) is supposed to be the reward of good works. Pride ruins that cycle.
If you look around social media, you’ll get the impression that doing good deeds for others is just another excuse to say, “Look at me! Wonderful, incredible, awesome me!!” It’s nice that they are being nice, but when the real end game is self-indulgence, they ruin what should be a beautiful and understated transaction.
It’s unfortunate that gratitude is often only offered after the positive conclusion of a difficult problem because it is something that we should give every day, just for being alive. And it is even more unfortunate that accepting gratitude is misused as a vehicle to prop up one’s delicate, all-important self esteem. Gratitude is a catharsis, a celebration of the heart that is worthwhile all the time under all conditions but requires sincerity to be effective. Gratitude in its true form is giving back the love others give to you, without conditions or ulterior motives. Gratitude is a two way street that should always be offered generously and accepted with a glad spirit.