Ingratitude:  How it destroys our minds and hearts and souls. 

One of the things that I think most of us try to do is make sense out of the senseless.  To do this, we apply various types of reasoning.  From economic to political to psychological explanations, we attempt to fashion a purpose or logic for the senseless that helps us to see some logic to seemingly random and violent actions.  Religious people use the term sin to cover many such acts.  Some say it is the work of the devil.  Psychologists use terms like paranoid schizophrenic or sociopath to convey some idea as to motive and underlying rationale.  More practical minded people look to motives like revenge, money, jealousy etc.

I have heard that Bertrand Russell said that fear was the main motive for all evil that is done.  This has a great deal of merit to it as an rally5underlying or foundation problem to explain many senseless acts of violence and mayhem.  We can see pictures today of people screaming at immigrants to go home and realize that many of these raging mobs are driven by fear.  Fear of job loss, fear of economic uncertainty, fear of being displaced and fear of strangers.

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” — Bertrand Russell

Another explagreed1024x768nation I have heard deals with greed.  It has been said that “Greed is not the worst of all sins, but it is the gateway to all others.”    Reflecting on this comment provides some very interesting insights.  For instance, why does anyone steal?  They want more than they have, ergo greed.  Why does anyone kill?  Typical answers would include:  To get more land, ergo greed; to get more money, ergo greed; to get something they want, ergo greed.  The more I thought about greed as an explanation, the more I could see it being a key cornerstone to almost all acts of violence and terror.  I was content to accept this underlying explanation until a few weeks ago when I attended my annual retreat.

This year at my retreat, it was noted that Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits had said that “Ingratitude” was the basis of all sin.

“Ignatius thought that a particular type of ignorance was at the root of sin. The deadliest sin, he said, is ingratitude. It is “the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.” If you asked a hundred people to name the sin that’s the origin of all evils, I’ll bet none of them would say ingratitude. They would say pride or disobedience or greed or anger. The idea that we sin because we’re not sufficiently aware of God’s goodness probably wouldn’t occur to too many people.” —  Jim Manney

I have to agree with Mr. Manney.  I had never thought of ingratitude as being a sin never mind the root of all evil.  I decided that this would be a good thing to reflect on.  Thus, for several weeks now I have been turning this idea over in my mind.  The more I think about it, the more I can see the validity in its premise.  Even more basic than fear or greed is the underlying ingratitude that starts the whole ball rolling.

tv_online_advertisingWe wake up feeling inadequate because we don’t have enough.  We look at our neighbor’s house and we become dissatisfied with our house.  We look at clothes that are in the malls and are not satisfied with our own clothes.  We look at cars, other people, other things like position, attention, status, respect and we grow more and more dissatisfied with what we have.  The TV ads surround us with our worthlessness unless we get more and more and more stuff.  Wants become needs.  We are smitten with greed and lust for these other things that we need and now must have.  We think that somehow we will be the person we want to be if we can only have more.  Our ingratitude for what we have now becomes greediness.  We become consumed by a desire to get these things we think will complete our lives.

As time goes by, the greed turns to fear.  What if someone else gets them first?  What if these new immigrants get the job that I wanted?  What if there is not enough to go around?  The fear drives an endless series of what ifs that can and eventually does turn to hate and violence.  Look at the crowds on the border screaming “go home” to the refugees looking for asylum and sanctuary.  These are people for whom ingratitude has turned to greed and greed has turned to fear and now fear has become hate.

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

I began to think about what I most wanted when I was a child.   It was mainly simple things.  I wanted freedom from fear.  I wanted to be liked and admired by others.  I wanted someone who cared about me.  I wanted to see hummingbirds in a garden each day.  I wanted to see Morning Glories blooming with their wonderful blue petals.  I left home at 18 to join the military.  Back then, I did not know what I wanted. I thought getting out of my house would help me find the freedom I needed to complete myself.  I felt inadequate but I did not know why or how or what would make me feel better.  Thus, began a lifelong search for myself.

Like many otherSuccess-is-liking-yourself-liking-what-you-do-and-liking-how-you-do-it.s before me, I thought getting success would be the key to feeling complete.  Success meant fame, fortune and admiration from the masses.  I would have money to roll in.  I would have girlfriends too numerous and beautiful to count.  I would have crowds thronging to hear my every utterance.   The path to success was uncertain but the laurels and rewards were  assured if only I could find the right stair way.  I looked everywhere.  I read everything.  I talked to everyone.  Success would come with hard work.  Success took risks.  Success was not an overnight phenomenon.  I needed to get an education first.  I needed to save my money.  I needed to invest.  Everything I did was still not enough.  I was not a success.

IMG_0745 (2)Yesterday morning, I walked outside and saw a beautiful blue Morning Glory on my back fence.  As I walked around the back of our house, I saw a small little hummingbird that was drinking at one of our feeders. I watched him for about five minutes and took the pictures you see here of the flower and small little hummingbird.  Inside my house, my wife Karen was still soundly asleep.  A better person and wife I could not want.  I have food in the refrigerator and a warm comfortable bed in a nice house to rest and sleep in.  My last medical report states that my cancer has been completely removed and there were no signs that it had spread.  Today, when I went out, I had two Morning Glories blooming.

I have disagreements with many people. I disagree with those who are prejudiced and racist. I disagree with those who think we cannot help others from other countries. I disagree with those who think that military action is the best response to world problems.  I disagree with those who think that we should not share and help others who are less fortunate in this country.  I disagree with those who are so certain that there is only one viewpoint and credo for existence.  I disagree with those who think that compromise is a sign of weakness.  I disagree with those who think that success is the secret to happiness.  (Please take a minute to listen to the Gratitude Song by Nichole Nordeman, it will bring joy to your heart)

I have finally realized that Loyola was right.  If I am not happy, if I am not successful, if I am not wealthy, it is because I am not grateful hummingbirdfor what I have.  I have what I need.  I may not have what I want, but what I want will never make me happy or give true meaning to my life.  Perhaps my life is best defined by the Morning Glories and hummingbirds.  It has only taken me 60 or so years to see that I am surrounded by the things and people that I truly need in my life.  I spent years looking everywhere for success and happiness and they were right in my own backyard.

One further confession I need to make. I backslide quite often.  I still have pangs of worthlessness and inadequacy.  If I were younger, I might succumb to these feelings and go skydiving, mountain climbing or some other form of glory seeking.  Maybe that is the good thing about age.  It no longer seems worth the effort to pursue glory.  Time to go visit the Morning Glories and maybe see a hummingbird.

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there….then I never really lost it to begin with.  –– Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz

Time for Questions:

What are you most grateful for today?  When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone you care about?  How often do you stop to think about how much you have to be grateful for?  Are you grateful for the things that really matter in your life?  What if you took time each day to be more grateful for your life?  What are you most ungrateful for?  How can you get rid of your ingratitude?

Life is just beginning. 

 

 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeanine
    Sep 05, 2014 @ 13:08:43

    I am grateful that I have you for a brother, and a sister in law that could not be closer than my own sister. Your blog truly enlightened me. I’m thinking that an advice column is something you would be wonderful at. I have been very ungrateful, but after reading your blog I am going to try very hard to change my line of thinking. I always loved the saying,”I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet”. I complain about my ten room house being to dark because some of my friends own million dollar homes. Poor me. I complain about my hair not being thick enough…. Some of my girlfriends are going bald on top. I could go on and on. I can start today by looking at my own backyard and how beautiful it looks when the leaves change and when the snow falls. Thank you for a great article.

    Reply

    • johnpersico
      Sep 05, 2014 @ 21:11:15

      Thanks Jeanine, I am grateful that you are my sister. I could not want a better and more caring sister and friend. Karen feels the same way. Thanks for the shoes. They fit great and I can make good use of them. I am glad you enjoyed the blog. Maybe I will get an advice column some day. IT would be fun. However, I think many people would be much better qualified to give advice than I am. I am working hard on taking my own advice which is often better than my actions.

      Reply

  2. Trackback: Gratefulness | Aging Capriciously

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: