“Let us conceive of gratitude in its largest, most beautiful sense, that if we receive any kindness we are debtor, not merely to one man, but to the whole world. As we are each day indebted to thousands for the comforts, joys, consolations, and blessings of life, let us realize that it is only by kindness to all that we can begin to repay the debt to one, begin to make gratitude the atmosphere of all our living and a constant expression in outward acts, rather than in mere thoughts. Let us see the awful cowardice and the injustice of ingratitude, not to take it too seriously in others, not to condemn it too severely, but merely to banish it forever from our own lives, and to make every hour of our living the radiation of the sweetness of gratitude.” ~ William George Jordan
I can think of no finer conclusion to our consideration of gratitude than Mr. Jordan’s thoughtful and inspiring words above. It is one thing to hold a higher ideal in thought, intellectually. It is quite another to let the ideals you hold permeate the atmosphere of your living.
To do so you must meet your own objections initially. You must overturn your conviction that “nobody’s perfect” and that we are all lowly creatures destined to suffer and fail. You must withstand the venomous attacks of your critics as they try to convince you that you cannot change. “You will fail. You don’t have what it takes. You could never overcome,” they will whisper in your ear, particularly when your the chips or your guard are down. You must, in short, persevere.
If gratitude has not been the atmosphere of all your living and you are looking to make a change in this direction, you will have some specific work to do. It won’t be easy initially, for you have to separate yourself from the false identities you have accepted (e.g. I am weak, I am impatient, I am shy, I am stupid), which occurs naturally as you start identifying more fully with the nobler aspects of you. That said, once you realize that you are no longer limited by these prisons of your own making, the process can work out swiftly, to the degree that you remain open, patient and centered in gratitude.
Nothing short of the constant expression of gratitude in outward acts is sufficient. Each time you withhold or withdraw your gratitude, either out of reaction to another or subjection to an old and bad habit, you lose ground. Likewise, every time you incline your heart to your highest ideal and give utterance only to the highest and finest presently available to you, you move forward.
Don’t worry about others as you go through this process. They will reveal themselves for who they are in any given moment. Banish ingratitude from yourself and the atmosphere of your living will inspire and challenge those around you in ways that you never could imagine possible while holding onto the idea that a little ingratitude here and there is justified.
Ingratitude, as Mr. Jordan asserts, is cowardly and unjust. It weakens its host, slowly sapping the lifeblood of its victims. Gratitude, on the other hand, courageous and merciful. It strengthens, uplifts and purifies those who embrace it with their hearts and minds and give form to it through their words and deeds.
The choice, dear readers, is yours.