Ingratitude is the Deadliest Sin

In The Slavery of Death I argue that our capacity for love is cultivated by what David Kelsey calls doxological gratitude.

Gratitude, holding life as a gift, is key to the ability to love, the ability to give freely and non-anxiously to others.

So would it not make sense then that a lack of gratitude radically undermines love? That ingratitude is the deadliest sin?

That is the argument recently made by Ann Wroe in her essay "Ingratitude is the Deadliest Sin" in the magazine Intelligent Life. Ann writes:
The incidents seem trifling. After the dinner party, no note is sent. (Well, you were busy, and the dinner wasn’t that elaborate.) The solicitous e-mail gets no reply. (Again, you’re busy, and don’t feel like chatting.) A driver gives way to you at a place where there is no clear priority; you don’t acknowledge him. A fellow pedestrian steps into the road for you, or holds a door; you breeze on by. On holiday, you give your smallest and most worthless coins to the woman who has carefully cleaned your room.…

No blood is spilt in any of these cases. Nothing is stolen. No one’s life is ruined. The prick of pain passes soon enough. Yet a tiny seed of ice has been sown, formed of arrogance on one side and, on the other, a sense of worthlessness. That ice spreads, and creeps into the veins and crevices of life: so that on the next occasion the door is not held, the room is cleaned carelessly, the car does not give way and the e-mail is never sent. As the opportunity for kindness is ignored, so the chance of reciprocal kindness, in the form of thanks, never comes to be. What is never given can never be repaid.
(H/T Andrew Sullivan)

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8 thoughts on “Ingratitude is the Deadliest Sin”

  1. "Ingratitude is the frost that nips the flower even as it opens, that shrivels the generous apple on the branch, that freezes the fountain in mid-flow and numbs the hand, even in the very act of giving." ~Ann Wroe

  2. Something I did out of ignorance about 20 years ago is still a dead weight in my soul...I was staying at a nice hotel in Porte au Prince. I called the front desk and asked for a bath towel, which was promptly delivered by a maid. I tipped her with a Haitian bill. The next morning I found the bill on the railing outside my room. I asked a friend to explain the exchange rate. I had tipped the lady with the equivalent of about half a cent....

  3. Short, but powerful post. Thank you. Regarding "gratitude", I have often rolled it around, does the word beget the deed, or the deed, the word; or, is there a mutual birth? I know that the "word", the gratitude of prayer, has saved my sanity, even my life, while the timidity that once kept me from speaking it has melted tremendously. I am sure that most of your readers know of Meister Eckhart's quote., "If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is 'Thank you", that would suffice." But it was Thomas Merton and Matthew Fox that led me to Eckhart, and while his writings are so rich and in depth, it was this little sentence that encouraged me to make '"Thankfulness" so much a part of my morning word with God. I believe, or truly desire to believe, that it is now part of my meeting with those that God places on my path, and that the cycle, prayer to deed, deed to prayer, finds a new birth every dawn and swells throughout the day.

  4. I agree, absolutely. Note that the Latin gratia means both "grace" and "gratitude". Ingratitude is the crime against grace.

    From the moment of conversion it has also been clear to me that gratitude is the prime mover of the Christian life and the fundamental motive of all Christian behaviour and action. All we do is not to get, it is simply a way of saying "Thank you, Lord!" for all that we have been given. (I Thessalonians 5:18 is a Desert Island text.) And the fruit it bears: as Blake said, "A thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest."

  5. "Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy." - Fr. Alexander Schmemann in the last homily he delivered before his death.

  6. Genuine gratitude appears to be rather rare. It is easy to simply say, "thank you," but it is another thing entirely to really mean it from the heart. Clients who have Cluster B Personality Disorders lack a sense of gratitude, which is an essential part of character. I think we go through the motions of gratefulness, but often people never feel a strong sense of real thanksgiving (one of the most frequently used words in the Bible).

  7. The kind of viral gratitude she speaks of reminds me of this video on the contagious nature of kindness:

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