Why Bother With Ungratefulness?
Although the Big Dipper remains in the sky during daylight hours, its starry beauty can only be seen against the backdrop of a dark sky. Without this contrast of starlight against darkness, we would be unaware of not only the beauty of the Big Dipper, but all the other constellations in our night sky.
Sometimes a contrast is what we need to see what otherwise goes unnoticed. Therefore, when gratefulness is contrasted against its opposite, ungratefulness, I think we get a better view of the benefits of being grateful.
Putting the ‘Un’ in Gratefulness
Two little letters change everything about a word. When the prefix, un, is placed in front of the word grateful, we get the exact opposite, ungrateful. To be ungrateful is to be unthankful, rude, uncivil, unpleasant, disagreeable and not very fun to be around. Ungrateful people focus on what is lacking in their lives and covet what others have. Ungrateful people are fault finding and self-centered individuals. Just like an ingrown toenail is painful, ungrateful people are ingrown and hurtful, who only live to satisfy themselves. Being ungrateful is not a useful character trait for building relationships, living a happy life or believing we have a purpose in this life.
Seeing the grimness of ungratefulness we can remove the ‘un’ and turn our focus to its opposite, gratefulness. Grateful people appreciate and value what they already have. They are gracious in their words and actions toward others. Gratitude inspires us toward goodness, kindness, and joy. It raises our consciousness and gives us empathy toward other human beings. When we are grateful we are not anxious, breaking other people’s hearts with our selfishness, or envying what others have. Being grateful though, goes beyond just feeling gratitude. It is a moral disposition, a virtue, a trait.
Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar and writer. He tried in vain to uphold republican principles in the last of the civil wars that finally destroyed the Roman Empire. He is known to have said that gratitude is the queen of all virtues. I am sorry to say that he was executed for his ideals.
Another famous man who had important things to say about gratitude was Martin Luther, a religious reformer. He believed that gratefulness was the basic Christian attitude. He, unlike Cicero, was not executed for his ideals.
I don’t think we need to fear for our lives if we practice and cultivate the virtue of gratitude in this day and age.
So why bother with ungratefulness? When gratefulness is contrasted against ungratefulness, it ought to be enough to motivate us to take the ‘un’ out of our gratefulness.