We Have a Gratitude Deficit

By Dudley Hall Published on November 21, 2018

Alarms are sounding all over in our society. It seems that every interest group is touting their version of the biggest crisis ever. Sadly, we become numb to so many alarms and drift off to sleep even though the noise is deafening.

I think I am detecting a crisis that may be at the root of most, if not all, the others. We are frustrated, lonely, disoriented, and depressed because of the lack of gratitude. Before you stop reading, hear me out. If I’m right, there is a solution. If it is more complicated than this, the hope for surviving the crisis is dim.

Content to Remain Victims

We are competing for the prize of who has been most victimized. Identifying with segments of society that have felt oppression, real or imagined, gives us a voice to demand attention.

While all segments may have been oppressed in one way or another, there are clearly groups that have experienced more injustice than others. In all cases, it is shocking to discover that we have so little control over what happens to us, but that we have a choice in how we respond. When we are content to remain victims and project that as our identity, certain dynamics kick into gear.

  1. We can easily justify personal vengeance. We can even promote violence toward the perceived oppressor.
  2. We adopt an entitlement mentality demanding that our personal demands be met regardless of what it might cost others.
  3. Believing that our voice has not been heard sufficiently, we can justify shutting down all other voices. We don’t want to discuss issues but vilify anyone who disagrees.
  4. We become disoriented as to truth and functional relationships because we have focused on ourselves. We stagger like a child trying to walk a crooked path while looking only at her shoes.
  5. We long to be with people but are afraid to interact with them for fear that their views might make us feel unsafe. We gather in the crowded coffee shop with earbuds so we can be lonely together.

It was ingratitude that started this crisis.

Denied Design

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21)

With no design, we have been at a loss to figure out how creation works. No wonder we wander.

This text is in the apostle Paul’s explanation of why the gospel is needed by everyone. He explains that God made himself known in creation and conscience enough for humans to recognize him as God the creator and designer. But, in blind rebellion, we as a race chose to disregard him as such and refused to give thanks. That is, we refused to acknowledge that we are always the recipients, and never the source. Such a choice left the whole race alienated from God, incapable of making life work.

Without acknowledging the designer, we denied the design. With no design, we have been at a loss to figure out how creation works. In our disorientation, we have confused creation and creator, male and female, animals and humans, as well as truth and deception. No wonder we wander.

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With no God to guide according to a design, and no source to trust for our needs, we become gods — but very small ones. We conclude that we are the only hope for addressing the problems of society and promote ourselves as saviors.

We are besought with what Nietzsche called “the will to power.” We want desperately to be in control and will do remarkably bizarre things to achieve it. And even more desperate things to keep it.

It is such a tenuous grasp, however, since there is no truth beyond what we can discover for ourselves. We feel alone in the universe, and in our best moments, we tremble at how little we are in charge. Having very little to say, we scream, hoping the volume will cover the shallowness of our words.

The Fruit of Ingratitude

It is not hard to spot the symptoms of ingratitude.

It is reflected in disrespect for parents and parentage. Those who mock their parents and the ideal of parenting will suffer the lack of a secure identity. They will find respect difficult to give and receive.

It is also seen in the general disregard for authority. Structures like government, church, and family are considered outdated and malicious tools of historical oppression. The Bible is mocked or ignored by many who still contend they are Christians. It is their opinion supported by selective science that holds sway in personal decision-making. This leads to rampant dereliction of duty.

Ingratitude only focuses on what’s for me. We don’t even pay what we owe to those who teach us, protect us, and guide us.

There is disdain for paying taxes though we demand the government provide every comfort we demand. We demand that those who have more should divest themselves and equalize provision. Churches should fulfill our religious needs, but we should not be expected to participate in the upkeep of the ministries. Charities should help the poor, sick and afflicted, but someone else should fund them. Children should be educated, but teachers should be willing to sacrifice to get that done, without our help.

Ingratitude only focuses on what’s for me. We don’t even pay what we owe to those who teach us, protect us, and guide us. It produces a society of derelicts.

It is Time to Give Thanks

Is the answer, then, for us to just say thank you periodically? That is a good idea, but we all know how hypocritical we feel when we say thank you, and we really don’t mean it. Like children at a birthday party being told to say thank you for their gifts when they are disappointed in what they were given, “thank you” is hollow.

Consider this. Jesus has shared his life with us. After his crucifixion and resurrection, he ascended to the right hand of the Father and sent the same Spirit who had filled him in his life and raised him in his death, to live in his people. Though he was the Son of God, he spent his life in gratitude to the Father for everything he had. He respected the authorities of his culture even though they were not perfectly reflecting the authority of heaven. He paid his taxes to the temple and to the government. He has given his life to us to enjoy now.

It is time to give thanks — as a lifestyle. To do anything else is to live in delusion.

We have been given the same access to the Father that he had. We are loved by the same love that Jesus knew. We have been given his name to use against the powers that seek to destroy. We are the eternal recipients of a grace that supplies every need we shall ever have. We have his presence, his provision, his protection, and even participation, in his glorious mission on earth.

It is time to give thanks — as a lifestyle. To do anything else is to live in delusion. He is God. He has given. We are his people. We have received. Such gratitude to God releases us to be grateful to all others who are his channels of grace.

“Be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18, 20)

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  • Anthony Cieszkiewicz

    Gratitude is the means by which we demonstrate our fidelity to God in a fallen world, the world gone wrong. Gratitude sets the mind to respond to His question “Who do you say I am?

    On a more social-political note the comment “It is also seen in the general disregard for authority. Structures like government, church, and family are considered outdated and malicious tools of historical oppression.” is interesting that 1) it does not include patriarchy or Fatherhood nor does it include the obvious 2) that an oppressive bureaucratic government is essential to the utopian optimism of the secularist, progressive and leftist world view. By rejecting Fatherhood (Sonship) their self-serving victimization is addressed by their intellectual elites resulting in more self-seeking victimization. All of this irrationality simply to deny the existence and presence of the Father to whom we should exhibit gratitude.

  • Mark

    Focusing 24/7 on “my rights” will keep you a child forever. We live in a juvenile, bratty America.

  • My wife was recently diagnosed with cancer. How can I be grateful?

    In many ways, actually. First, while showing no symptoms, she had a PAP smear and it was positive. In less than a week, she had been examined. The cancer was found to be aggressive and spreading. In just a few days, she began chemo. After three rounds, she had major surgery last week and the prognosis looks pretty good. We are thankful that she didn’t delay getting a PAP smear, and we are grateful that we, for the most part, still do not have socialist health care and as a result her diagnosis and treatment occurred almost immediately.

    And did I mention friends and our church? Everyone has stepped up and helped. And don’t tell me that thoughts and prayers aren’t important. It is times like this that you find out who your friends are, and we’ve found we have more than we ever realized. Family? All the kids and in-laws have stepped up as well.

    What about God? We feel it was no accident that she was “nudged” to get a check-up and PAP smear; that we have one of the best cancer centers in the country just an hour away; that aggressive treatment seems to have halted aggressive cancer. In difficult times, you learn something about yourself, about others, and about God.

    Yes, we have much to be thankful for and to be grateful for. It is sad that so many focus on the negative and their perceived victimhood rather than on the many, many things they should be grateful for.

    • Athena771

      So you are thankful that we do not have a ‘socialist healthcare”, what about the people that are diagnosed with cancer and do not have insurance?

      What about people who cannot afford those cancer treatments because they don’t have insurance?

      I recently went to the emergency room and the bill was $9000 for the hospital staff seeing me for 5 hours. I also have insurance, but what about those that have to go to the emergency room and do NOT have insurance because it is too expensive to buy?

      It is easy to say that you don’t want socialist medical care when you are able to afford health insurance, what about those that cannot?

      • People who go to the emergency room must get treated, whether they can pay or not.

        On the other hand, my wife’s cancer – while very aggressive – was not an “emergency.” In Britain, under their wonderful free healthcare for all, they are debating whether to stop treating cancer altogether – too expensive! In any case, given the typical wait times under socialized medicine, her cancer would likely have been past the point where it could be effectively treated by the time they got around to her.

        I am not saying that our healthcare system could not be improved. But socialized medicine is not the way to go. The closest thing we have to it in the US right now is the VA system. Not so good. And I will add that even without insurance, you’ll probably get better care in the USA than any other country. I challenge you to find examples of people in this country who simply are not treated because they have no insurance. They are the exception, not the rule. Why do so many people come from Canada to the US for treatment? They come because the care is better or because they have to wait too long for treatment in Canada, or they can’t get treated at all in Canada!

        Note that almost all advances in pharmaceuticals, treatment methods, surgical techniques, medical equipment, and pretty much anything to do with healthcare, are made right here in the USA, not in countries with socialized medicine. Yet the rest of the world benefits. Do you think these advances would continue if we went socialized?

        Yes, we can improve our healthcare system. But a single payer, one-size fits all system with politicians micro-managing and with death panels (yes, bureaucrats will be making life / death decisions about when treatment is merited and when it is not) would be the wrong direction to take.

        • Athena771

          You still did not answer my question, how do people that do not have insurance get their cancer treated?

          The answer is they probably don’t and they die.

          Can you afford your wife’s treatment without insurance?

          I know people WITH insurance go into debt to pay for cancer treatments.

          One should not have to go bankrupt to get medical care.

          • And you have not bothered to address any of the failings of socialized medicine.
            To answer your question, most people with cancer get treated, whether they have insurance or not. Unless it is too advanced when discovered, as was the case with my father-in-law.

          • Athena771

            First of all we do not have socialized medicine in the U.S, so it is a hypothetical, for we do not know how it would be, we can only guess.

            Yes their are always trade offs to everything

            I do know a lot of people get their medicines from Canadian pharmacies because it is cheaper.

            As far as cancer treatments, do you know how much they cost? do you think the average person can afford those without insurance?

            I wonder how much surgery would cost to remove a cancerouse mass? i don’t know maybe $100,000, do most people have that in the bank?

            Do you have that in the bank

            It is easy to theorize about socialized medicine, but i am talking about the here and now and how people deal with this NOW?

          • We have plenty of examples of socialized medicine – Canada, the UK, most of Western Europe and more. Do you suppose it will fare better here than elsewhere? Why? I’m not “theorizing” about socialized medicine – the evidence is out there for all to see. You just choose to ignore it so you can avoid addressing the many failings and shortcomings by claiming we just don’t know. Yes, we do know.

            You, however, are very much theorizing about cancer treatment. I know very well how much cancer treatment costs,
            but you can only guess. I also know – and my wife most definitely knows
            – that there are people being treated alongside her that are not
            covered by insurance, nor are they paying out of pocket since they don’t
            have the money. The fact is, our insurance and out of pocket costs are helping pay for their treatment.

            Do you know why medicine is cheaper in Canada? Medicine is actually cheaper everywhere else in the world, not just Canada. Why? It is because US consumers are forced to pay for all the R&D costs which are not passed on to foreign customers. We in the US are subsidizing the rest of the world!

            I’m done discussing with you. You toss out criticisms of medical care in the USA with little knowledge, declare that socialized medicine is the solution. You apparently think that none of the many documented problems of socialized medicine will rear their ugly heads here in the USA, though they always have elsewhere. And, of course, you don’t address the inevitable collapse of medical innovation if the US goes socialized. Bye-bye.

          • Athena771

            I am not saying socialized medicine is a 100% solutions, but we need something in the middle at the very least to help control costs .

            I know their is no magic bullet for healthcare, but medical care is overly inflated in cost and i think something needs to be done about it.

            Medical care should not leave someone bankrupt.

          • Okay, I’m glad you are willing to compromise. So am I. No, I don’t have a magic bullet either. But the key is this – don’t start tearing down what is a pretty good system without considering the negative side effects. Quality-wise, we have the best healthcare in the world. The big question is – how do we correct the flaws in our system without destroying the good.

          • Athena771

            I also don’t think Pharmaceutical should not be allowed to mark up cost 4000%. Yes they need to make money, but they don’t need to make a killing off of drugs that can help people or save lives.

            People should not have to choose between paying for healthcare or paying rent or food, etc…

            at the very least we need to control costs.

          • As I say, American consumers have to foot the bill for all the R&D. It doesn’t have to be that way. As I understand it the way it works is this: for example, Canada, since the government runs healthcare, tells big pharma that they won’t buy their product at all unless they sell it for cost plus, cost being manufacturing cost. Well, pharma is better off selling for that rather than not selling at all. But that means they have to sell in the US for much higher to cover the R&D which can run into the hundreds of millions for a single drug! The administration apparently is trying to do something about this, making foreigners pay the same as Americans. But how, exactly, they are going to do this, and will it succeed, remains to be seen.

            Incidentally, one area where costs have plummeted, is lasik eye surgery. That is because insurance won’t pay for it, so they have to drive the costs down in order to get customers. The problem is that lasik really is unnecessary and if you can’t afford it, no big deal. The big problem with costs is the whole third party payer. If someone else is paying, the customer has no incentive to seek a less expensive provider, and the providers have no incentive to lower costs in order to attract customers. If everyone could afford to pay, costs would actually go down. But, of course, the problem is that everyone cannot afford to pay.

            Believe it or not, catastrophic health insurance is not very expensive, because most people never need it. That is what you need if you have cancer and the like. I could see a system where you have government subsidized (up to 100%) catastrophic insurance as part of the solution.

  • Anne

    So, so good!!!

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