Ingratitude and Character Disturbance
Ingratitude is behind much character disturbance. How so, you might wonder? Early researchers discovered something important about the most disturbed characters among us. They tended to want and expect much. But they also tended to give little. More specifically, they gave little of themselves. Moreover, they felt no sense of obligation to do so. They felt entitled to take and entitled to possess. But they didn’t feel very obligated to give. And their lack of felt obligation was behind most of their problematic behavior. At the root of their lack of felt obligation, however, was much ingratitude.
It works this way: grateful folks know they are inherently indebted. And their sense of indebtedness naturally prompts them to honor their debt. They feel compelled to give back. And they do so with the obligations they dutifully assume. This is the heart of most healthy prosocial behavior. (See also: Gratitude, Happiness, and Character and The Grateful Character Feels Obliged.)
Disturbed characters feel they are owed more than they owe. Sometimes, they feel cheated. Other times, they just feel entitled. But in any case they’re all too willing to take, and all too hesitant to give.
Obstacles to Gratitude
Ingratitude arises from many things. Deprivation (and pereived deprivation) can cause ingratitude. Folks who come out of disadvantaged circumstances can easily feel cheated, denied. The way some figure it, life didn’t treat them well, so why should they treat life and others well?
Ingratitude can also stem from overindulgence. Folks who’ve never had to work for much or who have been handed much merely for existing can’t possibly appreciate what they have or the sacrifices likely involved in providing it.
Whether it’s born of overindulgence, deprivation, or something else, ingratitude is leathal to healthy character. There are far to many takers out there and far too few givers. And our culture of entitlement not only encourages but also rewards the takers.
Finding and Showing Gratitude
Gratitude is crucial to healthy character. But it has to be more than just recognizing your many gifts and blessings. Healthy character is not so much about the gratitude you feel in your heart. Rather, its about the gratitude you demonstrate with your actions. Grateful individuals tend to be generous and kind. (See: Gratitude Inspires Civility and Generosity.) Expectational folks, on the other hand, tend to be selfish and demanding. They always want to know what you have done for them lately. And they don’t concern themselves very much with what they can do for you – or anyone else, for that matter.
The Many Manifestations of Character Disturbance
We live in an age where character disturbance of one kind or another is common. That’s why so many relationships experience trouble. It’s also why there’s so much social discord and dysfunction. Character doesn’t hold the place of high regard it once did. And too many folks emerge in adulthood arrested in their character development. But not every disturbed character is a narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath. And understanding each type of disturbed character and the problems they can cause is the main reason I wrote Character Disturbance.
“Character Matters” Goes LIve June 30!
The “New” Character Matters program will be a Facebook Live Event June 30, 2021. Get information and sign up on my professional Facebook Page. So I can take calls in real time and you can participate in the discussion. Naturally, the podcast will be available on YouTube as well as in the Archives here on the blog.