We are surrounded by the gift of life — it is a momentous thing to be alive. But what about those who aren’t? The author reminds us of how important gratitude can be and shares some inspiring stories from individuals around the world, nudging you towards reflection on your own current state.
With Thanksgiving approaching this week, many people’s thoughts may turn to what they are thankful for. But here’s a side to the story that isn’t typically discussed: what do you do when people don’t share your appreciation and your good deeds go unnoticed? William George Jordan, a dear friend of ours, gives a magnificent buffet of insightful ideas. From The Power of Truth; Individual Problems and Possibilities, 1902, “The Courage to Face Ingratitude.” Jordan, William George
The most common human sin is INGRATITUDE, which is the forgetting of the heart. It reveals the hollowness of ostensibly faithful behavior. It is the quickest path to all other vices for the person who owns it.
Ingratitude is a more heinous act than vengeance, which simply serves to repay bad for evil, but ingratitude serves to return evil for good…
Gratitude is the act of expressing gratitude. It is the natural radiation of justice, which gives fresh life and vitality to the person who emits it. The heart recognizes compassion in a way that the tongue cannot. Gratitude does not keep track of the money it receives. It understands that no debt of compassion can ever be abolished, annulled, or fully paid. Gratitude is always aware of the insignificance of its payments, but ingratitude is aware of the debt’s insignificance. Gratitude is the blossoming of a kindness seed, whereas ingratitude is the dormant inaction of a seed put on a stone.
The need for thankfulness is human, but the ability to rise above ingratitude is nearly heavenly. It is normal to want acknowledgement for our acts of generosity, as well as praise and the plain fairness of a return of good for good. But man does not attain the dignity of actual life until he has the strength to confront ingratitude calmly and to continue on his path unaffected whether his good deeds are met with gratitude or scorn. In terms of man’s acts, there should be only one court of appeals, not “what will the outcome be?” or “how will it be received?” but “is it right?” Then he should conduct his life in accordance with this one standard, calmly, boldly, loyally, and unwaveringly, making “right for right’s sake” his goal and motivation. Man should not be an automated gas-machine, skillfully designed to discharge a certain amount of light in response to a precise trigger. He should be like the enormous sun itself, which cannot help but radiate light, warmth, life, and strength since these characteristics fill the sun’s heart, and to have them implies that it must continuously give them. Allow the sunshine of our compassion, sensitivity, love, admiration, influence, and kindness to shine brightly and warmly on others. But don’t allow us ever ruin it all by collecting receipts as vouchers to keep in our self-approval file.
It’s difficult to see those who sat at our board in our prosperous days flee as if fleeing from a pestilence when misfortune strikes; to see the loyalty on which we would have staked our lives, which seemed firm as a rock, crack and splinter like thin glass at the first true test; to know that the fire of friendship, which once warmed our hands in our hour of need, has turned to cold, dead, gray ashes, where warmth is but a
It’s difficult to believe that he, who once lived in the sanctuary of our affection, in the frank confidence where conversation seemed like our soliloquy, and to whom our aims and aspirations were thrown open with no Bluebeard chamber of reserve, has been secretly poisoning the waters of our reputation and undermining us through his lies and treachery. But, no matter how much the ingratitude wounds, we should swallow the sob, suppress the tear, smile serenely and fearlessly, and try to forget.
We must not allow the ingratitude of a few to condemn the whole world un order to be fair to ourselves. When we allow a few human insects’ wrongdoing paralyze our trust in mankind, we give too much homage to them. “All men are ungrateful,” the cynics’ lie, is a companion falsehood to “all men have their price.” If we want good from mankind, we must have faith in it. He who believes that all people are evil is a pessimist who confuses introspection with observation; he looks into his own heart and believes that he can see the world. He’s like a guy with crossed eyes who never sees what he seems to be looking at. Confidence and credit are the foundations of both business and society. Withdraw them from business, and the world’s activities and companies will come to a halt, crash, and collapse into chaos. When a person’s faith in mankind is shattered, he becomes nothing more than a living, selfish egotist, the last decent man standing, nursing a petty grievance against the world because a few people he has favored have been ungrateful.
If a person gets a counterfeit dollar, he does not immediately lose trust in all money—at least, no such cases have been documented in our nation. He doesn’t claim “the sun ceases to exist, there are definitely no brilliant days to come in the whole calendar of time” if he experiences three or four days of dismal weather. If a piece of food that has outlived its function makes a man’s breakfast an unpleasant recollection, he does not abstain from eating. If a guy discovers one apple beneath a tree with a suspicious-looking hole on one side, he does not condemn the whole orchard; instead, he criticizes just that fruit. But someone who has aided someone who subsequently fails a gratitude test adds, “I have had my experience, I have learnt my lesson,” in a voice plaintive with the awareness of damage, and with a nod of his head that indicates Solomon’s wisdom: “I have had my experience, I have learned my lesson.” This is the last time I’ll put my trust in a guy. I did this and that for him, and now look at the outcome!”
Then he unrolls a huge list of favors, meticulously categorized and totaled, until it resembles a large city’s payroll. He bemoans the unfairness of one guy, but he is ready to be unjust to the whole world by having it suffer the brunt of one individual’s wrongdoing. There is already much too much vicarious misery on our planet for this petty effort to add to it by syndicating one man’s ingratitude. It is not ultimate justice to imprison the whole planet because one guy drinks excessively. The farmer does not anticipate every seed he sows in hope and trust to land on excellent ground and provide a crop; he is confident that this will not be the case, and that it cannot be. He’s betting on the end result of many seeds, on the harvest of all, rather than the harvest of just one… The bigger the number of incidents of ingratitude that must be addressed and overcome, the more selfless, compassionate, and elevated the individual’s life and purpose…
We must always rise beyond human thanks, or we will never be able to do something genuinely great or honorable. An otherwise good deed is tainted by the hope of appreciation. Even our greatest deeds get dulled as a result of it. Gratitude is seen by most people as a protective tax on virtues. The guy who is hampered in his good works by the ingratitude of others is working for God on a pay. He is not a volunteer; he is a paid soldier. He should be honest enough to see that he is working for a reward; he is behaving well for a reward, just like a kid. He views his acts of kindness and other acts of generosity as moral stock that he is ready to retain for as long as they generate dividends. There is always a touch of the posture in such existence; it is waiting for the gallery’s acclaim. We must make doing the right thing, living up to our values, our reward and stimulation, otherwise life will become a succession of failures, tragedies, and disappointments for us…
Let us forget about the good actions we’ve done by making them appear little in contrast to the bigger things we’re doing now and the bigger things we plan to achieve in the future. Unless he is so frozen in selfishness as to make it impossible, this is real generosity, and it will produce thankfulness in the spirit of the one who has been helped. However, reminding a guy of the benefits he has gotten from you on a regular basis nearly eliminates the debt. When you recollect the numbers, you are usurping his right to care for them. We should not behave as if we had a mortgage on someone’s immortality just because we have had the good fortune to be able to serve them, expecting him to swing the censer of adoration eternally in our presence…
There is no such thing as a good deed that never dies. According to science, no atom of matter can ever be destroyed, and no force that has begun can ever stop; it just moves through a series of ever-changing stages. Every good act done for others is a powerful force that begins a never-ending pulse that spans time and eternity. We may not realize it, and we may never hear a word of thanks or acknowledgement, but it will all come back to us in some manner, as effortlessly, flawlessly, and surely as echo responses to sound. Perhaps not in the way we anticipate, how we expect, or where we expect it, but it returns, just as the dove Noah dispatched from the Ark returned with its green leaf of revelation. Let us consider appreciation in its broadest, most beautiful sense: if we receive any kindness, we owe it to the whole world, not just to one guy. As we are indebted to thousands each day for the comforts, joys, consolation, and blessings of life, let us remember that it is only by being kind to all that we can begin to repay the debt to one, that it is only by being kind to all that we can begin to repay the debt to one, that we can begin to make gratitude the atmosphere of all our living and a constant expression in outward acts, rather than just thoughts. Let us recognize the terrible cowardice and unfairness of ingratitude, not to take it too seriously in others, not to condemn it too harshly, but simply to eliminate it from our own lives forever, and to make every hour of our lives a ray of gratitude’s sweetness.