Gratitude: a high mark of generosity and achievement. Everyone feels better.

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 3 April 2016. By John Abbate.

Give Thanks

Gratitude and generosity—where do they begin? According to the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, “feelings of love and gratitude arise directly and spontaneously in the baby in response to the love and care of his (sic) mother” (in Love, Hate, and Reparation). This sets the tone for later life, later generosity. “As we receive good things, we are likely to give good things,” said Dr Macnab.

Yet the tank of our generosity and gratitude can run dry. “The requirements of gratitude are often linked with resentment,” said Dr Macnab. How can you be grateful when others are so ungenerous, jealous, lacking in empathy? With basic gratitude so integral to so many everyday interactions, any paucity of this “social lubricant” can lead to disastrous consequences.

When “gratitude fatigue” hits, expressing thanks becomes a chore done with repeated, empty phrases. These are virtually meaningless utterances to satisfy the bare minimum of social expectations. At such times we should marvel with Dr Macnab at those who can “express gratitude so beautifully, so genuinely.”

How can gratitude and generosity be encouraged and sustained?

In terms or our development as human beings, gratitude represents “the appreciation of goodness and the internalisation of a soothing, friendly, good presence.” Dr Macnab suggests we need “constant reminders, constant rehearsals, constant remaking of generosity and gratitude,” for our emotional development, our relationship growth and enjoyment.

”Gratitude is a way of growing forward, growing inward…Generosity of heart [is] one of the highest marks of our human development—a gift to all of us.”

 

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