Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.
The feeling of gratitude is not an easy thing.
It does not come easily to us, especially when one needs to express thanks for what one gets. And particularly when the beneficence is great. It is relatively simple to be thankful for minor services, but it is most difficult to be truly grateful for a great favor. That is when we are given something that is very important to us. As noted by La Rochefoucauld:
Almost everyone takes pleasure in repaying trifling obligations, very many feel gratitude for those that are moderate; but there is scarcely anyone who is not ungrateful for those that are weighty.
There are people for whom gratitude comes naturally and easily from birth; the rest of us have to educate ourselves and cultivate it throughout our lives.
What prevents us from being grateful? When we accept something (love, care, services or something tangible), it seems to us that we thereby put ourselves below the person who gives this thing to us. Thus we get the feeling that we are “losers”, since we could not achieve this thing ourselves, and have been forced to take it from someone else. Or the feeling that we are putting ourselves in a situation of dependence by taking this thing. We lose a part of our freedom.
True gratitude is the recognition that not all of our life is under our control. That there are other people on whom we depend. That there are Higher Powers that lead us. That we cannot achieve many things only on our own. That something very important to us can come to us from the outside, from others, and that we cannot manage this in any way.
In short, it is excessive pride which prevents us from being grateful. Or rather, a sense of one’s own importance – a term taken from Castaneda’s books.
When the sense of one’s own importance abates, gratitude emerges. Then, paradoxically, one can find inner freedom in the realization of one’s limitations. And increase (not diminish) the sense of value. But when there is no freedom (especially when we are too dependent on the opinions of other people), then gratitude becomes a burden. The less inner freedom we have, the harder it is for us to take and to thank. At some point we can even begin to hate the one who gave us too much. Forgetting that we took it all of our own free will.
But we are gradually developing. And at some other point, we might realize that the one who gives and the one who takes are from the highest point of view equal, neither of them is higher or lower than the other, and that giving something to us is only possible with our desire and consent to take it. Just like we can only give another person something if he/she wants and is ready to accept it.
But to come to this awareness, one must learn – all of one’s life.
Why do we need to learn to be grateful? It seems that this is the shortest way to happiness.