The takers and users among us aren’t just arrested in their character development. They’re spiritually arrested, too. Humble gratitude for the gift of life is a linchpin of healthy character.
Thanksgiving means more than a single holiday. Responsible people render it daily in their undertakings. But in this age of rampant narcissism and entitlement, cultivating gratitude is difficult. So, far too few give thanks with their actions. Rather, they take, use, exploit, and injure – all for their own gratification. And they do such things without compunction because they feel entitled.
I have much for which to be grateful. Your validation and promotion of my work has always inspired and sustained me. It’s impossible to say how much such support means to me. So, from the bottom of my heart, “Thank you!”
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.
Egomaniacal thinkers attribute everything they’ve ever achieved solely to themselves and their greatness. To acknowledge any higher reality would only make them feel both dependent and indebted. The haughty among us want no part of that.
When we live in love and act in love we have the power to change the world. That’s because we ourselves have been transformed.
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.
We live in an age of unprecedented entitlement. Almost everything once regarded as a privilege or something to be earned is now regarded as an inherent right. As a result, many people have come to expect far more than they feel obliged to give, which has set a disatrous precedent for the character formation of our children. This makes the second commandment of sound character development and its message of gratitude very hard to embrace.
The grateful character feels obliged, not entitled. And the grateful character pays his or her debts.