accomplishment gratitude

How hard is it to say thank you?

7:38:00 AMMeredith Kuzma

At the end of a long project, after you have been required to give consistently of your time and energy, there is usually an intense feeling of accomplishment. The image of this success is often painted in the varying brown hues of coffee and grim determination in modern America. But there are also projects that arrive at completion by traveling down a much different path—one in which you are utterly reliant on other people to help you complete the task. At the end of a project such as this, it would be inappropriate to experience an ego-centric feeling of accomplishment, for in fact the project may not have been realized if not for the help of others. Some, sensing this, may feel chagrin or irritation, angry at the perceived weakness of requiring assistance. However, the person in this situation is directly called to the proper response: gratitude.


To believe that you are a super man is a very precarious position. Though man may wish he were all powerful, the fact remains abundantly clear that no one can be called a “super man.” Here, some may balk at the apparent weakness present in the one who requires help from others. Yet, this is not merely a question of strength. The man who recognizes that he needs freely given help from other persons also recognizes something particular about himself: that his very existence is a gift.


“A man who is reluctant to be grateful to others, feeling this to be a burdensome dependence, is still a slave of his pride. Whoever is so imprisoned in himself that he takes all favors for granted lacks true awareness and freedom” (p 124).


Enter gratitude. Being grateful is the practice of recognizing and responding to what has been given to you and through this process, unfolding who you are. We all experience pride. We all get caught up in comparing our abilities to others, in weighing and valuing the skills we have verses the skills we want, and in using our capabilities to manipulate the outside world to get what we want. We look at ourselves as a product that we have created over time. This is true in some sense, as our personalities develop directly through self-defining action. We have full freedom. And yet, that freedom itself is a gift. So often we focus on self-aggrandizement, fully encouraged by consumer-driven society, and fail to actually see the gift of other persons and the gift of ourselves.


“It is deeply characteristic of pride that the beauty of the helper's generosity is ignored and only a resentment against his formal superiority is felt” (p 126).

How could we look at a beautiful painting and really appreciate it if we did not sense it as a gift from the artist to the world—to us? Gratitude relates powerfully to beauty, not only artistry created by man but also within the realm of natural beauty. Watching a magnificent sunset, one is overcome with the sense that this is a gift. Even if you were the only person conscious to see this particular sunset, it would still overtake the sky with rich orange, yellow, and red hues. A true gift is given regardless of acknowledgment. Again, we can return to the human person. When we find a person unpleasant we begin to see them as ugly, yet we only see them clearly when we recognize them as gift. One ought to be grateful to others for their efforts so as to affirm their very existence as gifts.This discovery of gratitude opens our eyes to the true beauty of other persons.

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Dietrich & Alice von Hildebrand, The Art of Living (Manchester: Sophia Institute, 1994)

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