Gratitude is personal. Here is an example. If a person takes a taxi to the doctor’s office, he simply does so, and pays the taxi fare. However, if this same person received a ride to the doctor’s office by a neighbor or friend, then we have a different story. This person would most likely feel a sense of gratitude for the time and attention received. He/she would express gratitude by saying thank you for the kindness expressed. Therefore, for gratitude to exist, two human beings must be involved; one that gives, without expecting anything in return, and one that receives. “…gratitude is the expression of a personal encounter in human need.” 1 For the giver, an act of kindness, or the striving to meet another’s need, must be voluntary. No sense of quid-pro-quo should exist.
Gratitude with Reverence
In addition to personal and voluntary, Father Romano Guardini offers a third condition for gratitude in Learning the Virtues That Lead You to God:
He who gives the gift must do so with reverence for the one who receives; otherwise he wounds the receiver’s self-respect… If the one who helps lets the other feel his superiority, then gratitude dies and in its place we find humiliation and resentment…Gratitude can exist only with reverence.2
It is disrespectful to laud your superiority over another. Think about how the receiver would feel if you said, “Well, if it weren’t for me you would be in deep trouble!” How do you think the receiver of the so-called kind act feels? Perhaps humiliated, imposing, unloved, worthless? Father Guardini is spot-on in his assessment and evaluation regarding this virtue.
In writing my blog posts, I refer to Father Guardini’s book a great deal because he has gems of information contained within it. If you want to learn more about the virtues, I highly recommend getting a copy of Learning the Virtues That Lead You to God. I express my gratitude to the late Father Romano Guardini for giving all of us valuable information on the virtues, so that we may grow closer to God.
1 Guardini, Romano. Learning the Virtues That Lead You to God. p. 141-142, Manchester: Sophia Press Institute. Print. 1987
2 Ibid, p. 143-144