Researchers now know the reason disturbed characters have a hard time developing a healthy sense of obligation. When you feel entitled, you simply can’t feel obliged. You have to feel indebted before you can feel obliged. And you have to be deeply grateful before you can feel indebted.
Culture and character have an intertwined and interdependent relationship. And they impact each other in some very dynamic ways. More character-impaired individuals now populate the culture. And they have “enabled” the erosion of principles once widely revered and promoted.
It’s hard for me to think of a human dilemma I’ve encountered that didn’t have at its root a lack of positive regard for a person and the preciousness of their life.
Grandiose narcissists so wantonly use and abuse because they have little heart. They lack empathy. And they have little shame. And the more lacking they are in these things, the more easily they exploit.
We live in an exhibitionistic, self-aggrandizing, and self-indulgent society. It’s also largely an everyone for himself or herself society. It’s hard to become a conscientious, obligated, civil, and generous person in such an environment.
I’ve worked with thousands of person’s struggling to understand and deal with various disturbed characters in their lives. And it’s been most rewarding to equip these folks with both the understanding and tools they needed to empower themselves. I’ve also worked with thousands of disturbed characters. And to have witnessed many of these individuals become better people has been the blessing of a lifetime.
Mindfulness as a character quality is more than a particular practice like meditation. It’s a state of being and a way of living. Being mindful is about keeping ourselves maximally aware of both our inner world and the outer world, as well as the impact of our choices on those worlds. To be of sound character, one has to be mindful.
For the sake of our emotional, psychological, and spiritual health, it’s always a good idea to strive for balance in most areas of life. But when it comes to our character development, nowhere is the need for balance greater than with respect to our sense of self-importance or self-worth.
Most people think you need to be happy with your life and the way things are going to be grateful. But years of experience and now mounds of empirical research tells us just the opposite: when we keep our awareness high of all the things we have to be grateful for, we’re much more likely to find happiness.
Being grateful is not about having your head in the sand about all the bad stuff that happens, it’s about finding a space in the heart for appreciating the things you do have, even the little things. And gratitude is not just a good thing to have; rather, it is a way of valuing what we do have. Gratitude is necessary for people to be genuinely healthy and whole. Gratitude begets a sense of indebtedness and obligation, a sense notably lacking in the disturbed character who takes, expects, exploits, and abuses without reservation or compunction. Learning to be more grateful is the antidote for this, and it takes a lot of practice.