Humble gratitude is a linchpin of healthy character. And the “second commandment” of character development speaks to cultivating this frame of mind. Here again is the commandment:
Remember, you are not really entitled to anything. Your very life is an unearned gift. Therefore, strive to be grateful. And show your gratitude by honoring your obligations, thus meriting respect.
There’s abundant research these days on the importance and power of gratitude. And I’ve written several articles on the topic. See, for example:
- Gratitude, Happiness, and Character
- Commandment 2: Humble Gratitude
- The Grateful Character Feels Obliged
- The Grateful Heart is a Happy Heart
What the Research is Telling Us
Emmons is a researcher largely responsible for the recent findings on the importance of gratitude. But another researcher-clinician came to similar conclusions years ago. Working with a variety of seriously disturbed characters (mostly criminals), he made a startling discovery. Regardless of background, these folks shared a common characteristic: no sense of obligation. As they saw things, the world owed them. Moreover, they didn’t feel they owed anything to the world. Instead, they had a massive sense of entitlement. In addition to feeling entitled, some also felt cheated. Such sentiments further justified in their minds all the wanton taking they engaged in. (Find more on this in Character Disturbance.)
To feel obligated, one must first feel indebted. And to feel indebted, one has to first appreciate and be grateful for one’s blessings. Of course, it also helps to have some sense of whence all blessings come.
Cultural and Spiritual Impediments to Healthy Character
Aspects of modern culture promote and reinforce attitudes of entitlement. (See, also: Our Culture of Entitlement Impedes Character Growth.) Compared to generations past, we humans have a lot – a whole lot. And it’s easy to take it all for granted. It’s also easy for us to get big-headed about the advances we’ve made, especially technologically.
In an increasingly secular world, it’s also easy to become estranged from the source of all we enjoy. Whether we appreciate it or not, this universe (which produced us) is not of our making. Failing to recognize that there’s something bigger at work in our lives is a major impediment to growing in character. We are inherently beholding. That’s a reality we can only embrace in our hearts. And only in humble gratitude and a sense of indebtedness can we feel inspired to give back. Healthy characters give of themselves. Their hearts recognize that they haven’t really earned what they enjoy. They known that everything comes by grace. Making the free choice to give back in humble gratitude the core of merit. (See also: Merit, Virtue, and Character and Self-Esteem and Merit.)
Takers and Users
The takers and users among us aren’t just arrested in their character growth. They’re spiritually arrested, too. They haven’t yet found room in their hearts for a true higher power. The gods they worship are the practical ones who afford them various pleasures or escapes from various pains. And they place their faith in their own egos. They trust their cunning and manipulative skill. They feel beholding to no one except themselves. And that’s why they have little sense of obligation.
The First Step Comes First
The first step toward humble gratitude is recognizing something bigger than oneself. That’s the heart of the first commandment we’ve talked about the past few weeks. (See, for example: Outgrowing Natural Egocentricity.) We have to get our narrow self-interests to see the bigger picture. And once we see the bigger picture we can’t help but recognize that something incomprehensible but grander than we can possibly imagine is at work. We can’t even begin to feel grateful without first recognizing and standing in awe of the power that fuels the universe. You don’t even have to be a deist to have the right sentiment. You just have to humbly admit that something much bigger than you is at work. And that something bigger not only made life possible but sustains it. Ours is but to cooperate. And in humble gratitude, spiritually healthy characters freely and lovingly strive to do just that.
9 thoughts on “Humble Gratitude Inspires Indebtedness”
Excellent post. It agrees with what is written in God’s word the Bible. 🙂
Excellent post. It agrees with what is written in God’s word the Bible. 🙂 Thank you for writing it.
Can’t wait to read your books!
I give all the credit in the world to those people whose parent(s) was a narc and filled their heads with their brainwashing garbage. That’s a long road to go do to be raised by that and then to come to the realization what they have been living with. But thank goodness they do come to that realization because there is finally freedom in that, but a lot to heal from.
Personally, I have to give the credit to God! I was raised by narc parents and surrounded with narc siblings. Sometimes I still cannot believe the lies and abuse they all perpetrated on me to this day. I can only give credit to God Almighty that first He adopted me, and second He showed me how absolutely wrong it is to continue a legacy of lies and abuse!!!
Thank God and I thank him all the time for validating me with the work of great people like Dr. Simon!!!
Merry Christmas to all and a Very Happy New Year filled with HOPE!
I can wholeheartedly agree with you. It is difficult to wrap ones head around when we find out who the CD really are. I too have a family of CDN and I have found the best way to deal with any of them is to have NC….
Throughout my life prayer has been my refuge, and yes, when we give it all over to God, He takes care of us. I agree, “Thank God and I thank him all the time for validating me with the work of great people like Dr. Simon!!!”
God Bless All
Yes, I too have gone no contact with my family of CD Narc’s. I think it’s funny how they only want to have contact with me to hurt me. When I finally went no contact with the last 2 of the 6, they would try to contact me over and over again by changing their FB accounts and inappropriately commenting on my photos since I blocked them.
No boundaries, no repentance, no remorse or regret for the way they’ve all lied to me and mocked me for caring about them and their families.
Oh the stories I could tell you all of how each one of them including my parents would tell me good things about my accomplishments and then proceed to beg from me housing, money and jobs. Then to turn around and throw these things in my face.
I’ve learned a lot about boundaries and CD’s and Narcs and about remorseless people. I feel pity for them, but I’m not letting them back in my life ever. I hope and even pray at times, though that is a difficult task, that they will turn from their behavior and have compassion and remorse.
God Bless everyone here with a beautiful New Year and a new perspective for the gift of a New Beginning that this coming year may bring!!!
I think all of us here could go on and on with stories, I know Kat and Lucy have quite a few. I believe it is healthy to pray for our enemies like Jesus taught us.
I also believe in forgiveness just as Jesus said to forgive our enemy’s. The forgiveness does more for the forgiver. In this sense it lets us be free instead of carrying negative feelings inside us. Believe me the CD will bring more misery upon themselves then I could ever mete out. Give the CD enough rope and they will hang themselves.
I also believe it is in ones best interest to stay NC with the CD individuals. It is rare for the CD to reach out and admit their wrongdoings. I have gone NC with the whole sordid nest of CD in my family and am happy I did so years ago.
I pray for the CD in my life and wish them well in my mind, the last thing I will ever do is let them into my life again.
Pricilla, I love what you said;
“God Bless everyone here with a beautiful New Year and a new perspective for the gift of a New Beginning that this coming year may bring!!!
Thank you for this beautifully articulated article Dr. Simon. There is so much healing wisdom in it that I will use. And with much gratitude. Unplugging from my sick twisted family of origin, has left me with deep puncture wounds, slow to heal & full of grief for me, for them, what was, what was not, what could have been-it’s a process that seems to never end. I was dying a slow death by pretending I had a family that cared. I think I had Stockholm Syndrome, or a major trauma bond going. So finally being red pilled into seeing through them, for who they were/are in reality (and not in my head, through distorted perceptional lenses) has been incredibly liberating, freeing, there was a ‘me’ with needs and desires suddenly. And not really knowing how to address myself compassionately-my whole identity was build around neglect and self neglect. In other words I was a doormat, groomed for it from birth on and now I’m without a job haha. So self care is brutally hard for me, cos you have to matter to care about yourself. There is also existential loneliness, that even my birth family hated me, never loved me, used me narcissistically, abusively in every manner; that I never belonged or was loved for being me-I was only ‘loved’ as inanimate object that met their never ending needs. I never felt like a kid really, I feel sad writing this, that my parents were incapable of seeing their children at all, except how we were inherently wrong and inconvenient for living and interfering with their comfort etc…So that hurts the most. I never realized that until I just wrote it, so thank you for letting me ramble.
There are days that I think I cannot take much more, but I do and I know it’s all through the grace of God-no way I could do this on my own. And through your work Dr. Simon and all others that shed new light on psychopathology and violence & all the victims speaking out-you teach me how to be stronger, how to live more courageously, how to persevere. I wish there was more of me to give back more. I’m limping, but I also got the hell back up after the 1000th backstabbing betrayal by my family that said they loved me and I actually believed them-never believe the words, watch their actions/behavior always. Suddenly the Doormat had boundaries and said no to them–lol, but that almost got me killed or rather I think they intended to hurt me so badly that I would self destruct and off myself, it’s been a brutal climb out of their hell hole Their narcissistic rage brought out an ugliness within them that I would never thought possible or could have imagined. I finally recognized that I never knew or saw them either-just like they didn’t see me–we-all of us were in trances, probably in lockstep generational trauma trances-like being in an internal prison cell. the consciousness was very low, the love they gave and that I eagerly took, was a primitive love. I feel so curious and sad over what went wrong for my parents to have created such total deadbeats-I wish it could have been better for them as I think I partly carry their losses, disappointments, grief in my bones (epigentics?)
I have come to God finally on my knees in this journey and b/c of my inherent lack of trust of authority, it’s been a long hard road home. I am unfreezing enough now to wonder if I could allow myself to feel His love–I’m terrified it doesn’t exist or that God will leave me but intellectually I understand God to be BEING itself so He cannot leave me-the damaged kid in me still doesn’t believe this though. Please pray whoever has stuck it out with me here-sorry for the length–it’s pouring out of me lol…..please pray that she (damaged kid) will feel his love-cause I can’t access her very well, She only speaks terror.
Almost as important, and I’m not sure anyone will understand this, but I know I have faced Malevolence square in the face. Satan controlled my home from birth on at least for me. We were firmly in his grasp. I read that Satan (the accuser) is found wherever there is an absence of love, he will fill that void with his machinations. (fwiw I believe Satan to be the dynamic of the Scapegoat Mechanism at work-Rene Girard, mimetic theory) It’s vital to my recovery to recognize Evil b/c what I’m finding is since I was raised with criminals essentially, that I couldn’t “see” or “know” evil outside of me-I was so fused with them and it-it was ‘normal’ to me as a kid, so I was constantly choosing people like my family of origin to befriend-or they’d choose me. I’d get re-victimized, so for me anyway, Dr. Simon, your work has been crucial to my healing. My bullsh*t detector is functional. I take red flags to mean danger instead of rationalizing them away b/c of someone’s charm or needs. The work of Rene Girard also revolutionized my life in a way I cannot articulate except to know that the Holy Spirit is real and trustworthy and He came through Girard’s body of work and woke me up, rearranged my molecules. Am truly truly indebted to Girard forever.
Sometimes I wonder what my life could have been if not for my sad pathetic twisted vampiric family actively destroying my life-and the recovery and cost I continue to bear as a result of this. If I didn’t believe that something beautiful, fierce, vast and mysterious wasn’t behind it all, I’d be dead. Healing and the time it takes (forever) feels selfish to me–but God leads me to healing anyway, lol and so off we go…Another commentor above said something to the effect that God showed her that she was not to carry the lies and abuse any further–I’m probably butchering it, but I loved what she said, b/c it came to me one day that I was probably one of the only people, in maybe 5 to 6 well traced generations of my family, that had the opportunity and privilege to do the work to END the cycle of meaningless violence, the betrayals, the abject cruelty, the purposeful scapegoating and the impotent voiceless rage of being “it” ( I know my autoimmune disease comes from all this cos I keep getting better as I heal!!! lol-so great), the daily, grinding emotional abuse, humiliating, shameless sexual deviancy, the neglect that was modeled for me and my siblings. I weep for them and the loss of their true selves but dang, they’re heartless bastards, they’re also wounded–my kin, my blood, my tribe, I can’t stop loving them fundamentally b/c I always loved them, kids simply love. I thought they were my family and loved me–that’s how deformed I had to become-I had to twist their abuse into a semblance of love, normalcy, and family life–I’m still untwisting-it’s a tough one-all the cognitive distortions I had to create to survive life with them. I weep for them and love them from a distance and silently.
And this is where I find meaning. God is using my suffering and making something unconscious, conscious, from darkness to light and how great is that? And my work and healing comes straight from others that have done this work and the professionals. I also pray that any work towards ending this cycle of familial violence will somehow help heal my dead family members–that I can do the work they could not. I can now see how badly even my great grandparents suffered and had no recourse, not even a language that could begin to unravel their sadnesses, injustices, grief, etc..So I also do it hoping God can somehow use this for healing them. Hoping for a resurrection.
Thank you to anyone who read through my novella haha. I didn’t know it was in me to write this intimately-and air dirty laundry, but it felt good. Thanks for indulging me and Dr. Simon, again, a million thanks for all your research/work/spirit.
Happy New Year everybody and God bless.
(PS this is probably needs a severe edit, but I’m not doing it b/c I know if I do, I’ll delete most of it. My father told me that if I told anyone what went on at home, I’d come home one day to an empty house and even the dogs would be gone. So I lived in terror not knowing even how or what to articulate but as a kid, felt like my Mom could read my mind which meant one day I’d come home to an empty house and therefore die b/c I was a kid and would be all alone. Well get this Ma and Pa: No more secrets and lies. So I’m not deleting any of it. Victory! haha.)