Gratitude may be the mother of all the other virtues, as Cicero said, and it may be among the healthiest. But it’s also an elusive one in a society that is always striving for more and in a world “more full of weeping than you can understand,” as Yeats wrote.
Our tendency is to reach past what we have attained, to have expectations that lie just beyond our grasp and to ascribe our success to ourselves rather than others. It is also easy to confuse gratitude with self-satisfaction.
We all feel, from time to time, that things are never as good as they ought to be or as we want them to be. When one goal is attained, isn’t there always another one that needs to be seized? And isn’t dissatisfaction with the way things are the impetus to make things better?
Often it is. Yet life without the leavening effects of gratitude has a hardening effect. Ingratitude leaves us in a state of perpetual discontent, short-tempered, rarely at peace, rarely at rest. Stripped of gratitude, we find ourselves frustrated and fearful, impatient and on edge. Ingratitude also blinds us to the good in our midst — beauty, the wonders of nature, the gift of friendship, the blessings of family.