January 22, 2013

Foolish Gratitude. ~ William Hunnell


The idea of idiot compassion rings a bell for me.

After all, I believe it’s safe to say that many have experienced it. I also believe that there are just as many who have experienced what I call, foolish gratitude.

Webster’s Dictionary defines gratitude as:

“The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

My question is: how does one handle a situation in which another is seemingly outwardly exercising selfless service?

If I am correct in my assumption regarding selfless service, the doer is acting without expectation of any return. If that’s the case then I suggest that expressing gratitude in the form of a customary “thank you” is enough. If not, then carrying through on your end of the “bargain” should suffice—acknowledging appreciation for the action of the doer.

I believe “Miss Manners” would agree with me so I feel pretty secure in my assumption.

Most would agree that not everyone believes and practices selfless service. There are those who perform acts of kindness and/or compassion with much expected in return; they do something nice for you and now you “owe” them. The sad part is they believe not only in having the favor returned but intend to hold it over your head—they’re usually quite adept in that art.

A brief example: your friend/family member/random stranger sees you struggling, offers to help and you accept. The act has been committed and now you must repay that “debt.” Not only must you repay it once, but many times over. I’ve been in this situation before and it’s awkward. Soon resentment builds and next a relationship is injured, often times beyond repair.

Despite the fact that it’s considered “bad form” to lord over another in such situations, it still happens. There are those folks who live in blissful ignorance of that reality and its consequences.

I think it’s fair to argue that situations such as the above lead Shakespeare in his thinking on the subject:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

What I find interesting regarding that quote is that there are people (I’ve met a few) who believe that it is actually Biblical but that is not the case. I’ve known many people who live by that ignorance; I was one of them for years.

I have found that this mentality just doesn’t fit with me, it doesn’t work. It prevents a lot of complications but it also presents an opportunity for hurt feelings. I’m not saying that I have an issue with hurting another person’s feelings but I have too often found times I regret not providing needed assistance.

In my opinion, it would be asinine to not be grateful or express gratitude for a timely favor. I believe it is foolish to allow an instance, such as the one described above, to devalue one’s gratitude. By allowing it to occur it feeds the ego of the other. Gratitude does not feed our ego and is not meant to feed another’s.

I do not believe we are placed on this Earth for that purpose. While there is a lot to be said for humility, this goes just a little too far. Further, I do not believe we are here to literally or figuratively fall at the feet of another person; that is left for the particular religion we subscribe to.

There is strength in gratitude. It reminds us of how fortunate we are to have and to just be, not to feed our ego. There is value in gratitude. I refuse to over-spend or de-value my personal gratitude. Further, I refuse to allow another to de-value my gratitude.

The people, places and things I’m grateful to and for are far too valuable to me to let it become foolish gratitude.

Something to ponder…

When not in shoulder stand on a Yoga mat, William is an avid writer/blogger. Growing up in Pennsylvania and seeing the world courtesy of the armed forces, he now calls home a little slice of heaven known as Goose Creek, SC. One day he’ll grow up but for now he’s happy to be found on his mat exploring,and pondering his next blog. Enlightened? No. Thoughtful? No. Mindful? Yes! Check out more of his ramblings at www.downdogjunction.com and follow him on Twitter @OleManJake

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger
Assist Ed: Madison Canary

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