How does gratitude serve you? When someone expresses thanks to you, how do you feel? When you feel genuinely grateful to someone, what do you do?
“Ungratefulness spoils everything it touches.
“Ungratefulness slithers out of a black muck that’s called, ‘don’t like,’ ‘don’t want,’ ‘don’t have,’ and, ‘not enough.’ There is no positive side to the slimy beast of ungratefulness.”
This post reconnected some dots for me between gratitude and generosity.
When I feel grateful, there is enough. I am enough. Even just saying the word, seeing it on the screen, brings me to a more peaceful state of mind and body. It brings to mind the people in my life—my parents, husband, children, friends, colleagues. I recall instances when someone went above and beyond to help me, or when they thought of me and took to the time to call or write. I feel humble. I feel connected. I want to share what I have with others.
Maybe it was seeing the words of ungratefulness, ‘not enough.’ It reminded me of my favorite book, The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. The authors make a distinction between scarcity and scarcity thinking. Scarcity is when there actually aren’t enough resources to meet everybody’s needs; scarcity thinking is operating as if this were the case, when it really isn’t. Scarcity thinking at its best may foster healthy competition and innovation, and at worst, aggression, indifference, or even violence. In contrast, the Zanders discuss the notion of abundance. If we lived and operated in a world we assumed to be abundant, or at least enough for our needs, what would that look like?
For example, the woman parked down the street does not have enough coins to feed the meter. She asks me if I have change for a dollar. If money between us were actually scarce, then it would make sense to have an equal transaction—she gives me her dollar bill, I give her four quarters. In a world where we each need to look out for our own, we cannot afford to give anything away for free. But that is scarcity thinking, because I have spare change. Sure, I could spend those quarters to buy a candy bar later; or instead, I could trade them for human connection. If I stop even briefly to think about it, I know which one is the higher value purchase. But it’s not about buying gratitude from someone else. It’s about the origin of generosity.
That peace that comes with thankfulness is the antithesis of scarcity. When I needed coins for my meter, and a stranger gives me her spare change, it shows me that there is good in the world. I can seek the help of strangers and they will offer it. And if that’s the case, how much more wonderful when I think of my amazing tribe of friends and family who stand ready to hold me up, as I do them? I feel safe. There is enough. So I can give away what I have today, because I know I will get what I need tomorrow, or whenever I need it.
When we practice gratitude, we practice peace. We exude it. It manifests in our expressions and actions. Gratitude makes us creative, by lifting the need to hoard and compete. We come together, collaborate, look for our common passions and visions. We offer more of ourselves to others because we have faith that they will do the same. We know because they did it before—that is why we are grateful.
For a much more eloquent and important view on gratitude, please read David Brooks’s most recent op-ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/opinion/david-brooks-the-structure-of-gratitude.html