An attitude of Stoic gratitude
Showing gratitude has become fashionable in recent times; it is mostly promoted by new-age, spiritual leaders and their followers who champion it as a key to happiness and universal favour.
Due to its growing popularity and the growing amount of spurious claims, endorsed by pseudo science, on the purpose and the fruits which gratitude yields, the meaning and potency of gratitude is becoming watered down and lost.
In ancient times there was another group of people who held gratitude as a pillar of their practice; they were the Stoics. It wasn’t the culture of ‘thank you thank you thank you, #blessed’ vein gratitude which is prevalent today, but a far more virulent and powerful form of giving thanks; one grounded firmly within reality, truth and the development of character.
I am of course talking of Stoic gratitude.
‘The life of folly is empty of gratitude. Full of anxiety.’ - Seneca
The root causes of much of our anxiety can be found in unbridled desire and toxic thinking. Many of us are discontent with the lives we have, that is to say we are unhappy in the now; we spend much of our time wishing things to be different and hoping for a better life. Days, weeks, months and years spent yearning for the things we do not have and showing no appreciation for the life and things we do have.
How much time have we spent resenting our lives and what fortune has allotted to us? Because of this we fail to realise how much we do have and for most of us, how lucky we actually are.
Many of us have our health and if not that - health advanced healthcare; we live in developed nations, we have surplus opportunity and if you are able to read this article you probably have a laptop/smartphone, the internet and most importantly you are literate - much of the world both past and present have been denied all these things.
I am not saying your life is perfect, however, take the time to think about how your life could be much worse and how there are millions who would trade their lives for yours in an instant.
This is where the power of gratitude comes in; gratitude shifts our thoughts from desire and want to appreciation and contentment.
Whilst we complain about the taste of our tap water, children have to walk miles each morning to gather unsafe water for their families.
Whilst we lament over not being where we are in life, most people are never given the chance to pursue their own path.
Whilst we want the latest trainers, phone or game, we fail to appreciate that we live in a time of material luxury, with super-computers in the palm of our hands, in a world where we can afford to spend time in leisure, playing games and spending large chunks of money on fashion.
If you spent a fraction of time each day being thankful for what is in your life, as you do wishing it to be different or more that what it it, then I can promise you that you shall take a giant leap away from unhappiness and anxiety, instead becoming closer to contentment and joy.
It is amazing how a few moments of gratitude can quell an anxious soul, how swiftly it can extinguish desire and how gracefully it brings us back to our senses.
‘He who is discontented with what he has, and with what has been granted to him by fortune, is one who is ignorant of the art of living.’ - Epictetus.
Take heed of Epictetus’s words and let us not be ignorant in the art of living; lack of gratitude is simple ignorance and lack of awareness.
The whole concept of Amor Fati - the love of our fate, in essence, is one giant exercise in gratitude.
If you want to increase your satisfaction in life. If you want to be content. If you wish to no longer be anxious or resentful, if you want to be happy and have a life you can be happy with, then show some gratitude, write down all that is good in you life - family, health, education, opportunity, possessions, clean water, a home, money and friends.
Life will rarely be perfect and there is always something to complain about, but there is always more to be thankful for. Something as simple as being able to read or going to school to be basically educated is something many have given their lives for and yet we were given it on a plate.
Marcus Aurelius said ‘Nature, all that you seasons bring is fruit to me.’ So let us not cast aside what nature has given us, let us not turn our noses up at the pears and apples we have and wish we had strawberries and peaches.
It is also worth asking ourselves, if we cannot appreciate our lives now and all that is within it, do we deserve the life and things we wish for? If we attain them wont we be just as discontent and continue to want more?
‘It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.’ - Seneca.
So, let us not be ignorant of the art of living and have a sense of gratitude as we make our way through the day. Let us remember to have an attitude of Stoic gratitude.
Again, let us shift our thoughts from desire and want to appreciation and contentment. You will be all the better for it.