In our last +1, we continued our exploration of the science of gratitude by practicing the grateful art of shifting from taking things “for granted” to seeing all the gifts “AS GRANTED” to us.
Today I want to talk about the #1 thing that gets in the way of gratitude.
Q: Can you guess what it is?
(Pause. Reflect. Etc.)
A: The #1 thing that gets in the way of gratitude is a sense of ENTITLEMENT.
Here’s Robert Emmons again. He tells us: “Since the time of the ancient philosopher Seneca or before, having a overly high opinion of oneself has been seen as the chief obstacle of feeling and expressing gratitude. Research has shown that people who are ungrateful tend to have a sense of excessive self-importance, arrogance, vanity, and a high need for admiration and approval. At the more pathological end of the scale are narcissists, people who are profoundly self-absorbed and lack the empathy needed for entering deep, satisfying, mutually enhancing interpersonal relationships. At the more ordinary end of things are people who just feel entitled—to good grades, exemption from having to follow the rules, and special treatment of all kinds. The entitlement attitude says, ‘life owes me something’ or ‘people owe me something’ or ‘I deserve this.’ In all its manifestations, a preoccupation with the self can cause us to forget our benefits and our benefactors or to feel that we are owed things from others and therefore have no reason to feel thankful.”
That’s from a chapter in Gratitude Works! called “The Biggest Obstacle to Gratitude—and Its Remedy.”
To recap: The biggest obstacle to gratitude is a sense of ENTITLEMENT—the belief that the world owes you something. And, because you are entitled to all the awesome things in your life and “deserve” it all, there’s no reason for you to feel grateful.
The remedy to entitlement? HUMILITY.
As Robert beautifully tells us: “The more I contemplate the requirements for cultivating gratitude, the more I am convinced of the necessity of humility. In gratitude and humility we turn to realities outside of ourselves. We become aware of our limitations and our need to rely on others. In gratitude and humility, we acknowledge the myth of self-sufficiency. We look upward and outward to the sources that sustain us. Becoming aware of realities greater than ourselves shields us from the illusion of being self-made, being here on this planet by right—expecting everything and owing nothing. The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed. Humility ushers in a grateful response.”
One more time: We can take the amazing people and goodness in our lives FOR GRANTED or AS GRANTED.
It’s ALL one big GIFT. Making that shift is at the heart of gratitude.
On that note, let’s do a gratitude journaling exercise together.
What are three gifts you’re grateful for in your life? (Write a sentence describing each in detail.)
P.S. Right after I typed that two of my precious gifts knocked on the door—giving me an extra-sweet opportunity to cherish their presence in my life as we cuddled and wrestled and did some “acro-yoga” (aka them flying on my upraised feet) as I laughed with grateful joy.