Thanksgiving is my hands-down favorite holiday. The thought of a single day devoted to thankfulness seems trite….especially given that THANKFULNESS fosters HAPPINESS and we can all use more of that. I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder, (G. K. Chesterton).
In his book “thanks!” How the new science of gratitude can make you happier, Robert A. Emmons discusses some self-destructive approaches to gratitude. For some folks being thankful hurts their pride and forces them to confess that their success, good fortune, and blessings do NOT all come from their independence and own handiwork. It’s human nature to crave independence and self-sufficiency. It’s the American way to do it ourselves and to make it on our own. If we’ve suffered loss and know need we can become extremely uncomfortable by feelings of indebtedness or dependence. What a mistake to believe we can get through this life without the benefit and blessings from others. Pride goeth before the fall!
It’s been a subject for the ages. In his famous essay entitled Gifts, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about it. “The law of benefits is a difficult channel, which requires careful sailing….It is not the office of a man to receive gifts. How dare you give them? We wish to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten….We sometimes hate the meat which we eat, because there seems something of degrading dependence in living by it.”
When you fail to give thanks you rob the giver of the gift of giving. What a travesty. In a Chapter entitled An Unnatural Crime: Ingratitude, Emmons writes, “Whereas gratitude is an emotion, ingratitude is an accusation. A person does not feel ingratitude but exhibits it through word and deed. It is a vice that represents….a profound moral failure…..ingratitude is the presence of something negative. It is a form of punishment. When a person is ungrateful, they respond with hostility, resentment, or in some other way choose to willfully disparage the gift and the giver.” Rather sobering is that ingratitude is a common trait of narcissists. When narcissists do show gratitude is centers upon material things and self-attributes. They believe they hold the power of and credit for their blessings and their list is generally short.
In reality, givers should hold NO power. Inherent in true gifting is that no strings are attached. Once the gift leaves the giver, the giver no longer has control or claim to it. Whether the gift receiver chooses to acknowledge it, accept it, sell it, toss it or give it away SHOULD BE of no concern. That can be difficult when the giver, filled with the joy of giving seeks immediate feedback and waits for thanks, thank you notes and gleeful reactions. There’s nothing more empty than an unthankful heart.
But fair warning to those who fall short of gratitude. Emmons warns “….there are serious negative consequences to ungratefulness. Because providing benefits and creating bonds of gratitude tie people together in society, ingratitude weakens our bond to others. The Roman philosopher Seneca said that “no other vice is so hostile to the harmony of the human race as ingratitude.” Ungrateful people are unable (or unwilling) to partake in the cycle of giving and receiving and thus risk being alienated from society.
It’s never too late to give thanks. Make Thanksgiving a DATE to be GRATEFUL. Pause to praise as you enjoy turkey and dressing with loved ones and serve up an attitude of gratitude. Unlike the meal, it won’t make you fat, there’s an endless supply and it increases everyone’s happiness.
~From the desk of Becky Morlok~
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