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In the comments of my suggestion that "commitment is the greatest human attribute" and that "passionate commitment" will produce "someone to be reckoned with," Pale Rider says this:

I would say these have the potential to be the greatest human attribute(s), but also have the potential to be the worst. On the opposite side you could end up with a Nazi regime, 19 asshat's flying planes into the world trade centers, suicide bombers, etc.

Maybe commitment is the most powerful attribute?

Since he said that, I've wondered what makes the difference between the person committed to be constructive and the person committed to be destructive.

I think it's thankfulness.

People who tend to experience [thankfulness] more frequently than do others also tend to be happier, more helpful and forgiving, and less depressed than their less grateful counterparts (Kashdan, Uswatte, & Julian, 2006; McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002; Watkins, Woodward, Stone, & Kolts, 2003)
Hard to be a terrorist or a murderer when you're brimming with thankfulness.

What's more, thankfulness tends to spawn reciprocity.

Gratitude may also serve to reinforce future prosocial behavior in benefactors. For example, Carey and colleagues (Carey, Clicque, Leighton, & Milton, 1976) found that customers of a jewelry store who were called and thanked showed a subsequent 70% increase in purchases. In comparison, customers who were thanked and told about a sale showed only a 30% increase in purchases, and customers who were not called at all did not show an increase. Rind and Bordia (1995) found that restaurant patrons gave bigger tips when their servers wrote "Thank you" on their checks.
Thankfulness becomes a catalyst for "pay it forward," gently urging others into acts of kindness. Want a better world? Be thankful. Practice thankfulness.

Thankfulness is a choice, and it starts with what we choose to see. That may seem like a phrasing of the age-old question of whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, but it's not. The thankful person who sees the entirely empty glass would become thankful for and see the beauty in the glass itself. Thankfulness is a way of seeing life. It finds joy in the little things.

Thankfulness is not self-centered, but rather appreciates what it finds outside the self. So here's my definition for thankfulness: "The choice to see the beauty in life and to unabashedly express it."

The opposite of thankfulness is likely bitterness (resentment).

Resentment will often manifest itself in the following ways.
  • The harboring of animosity against a person or group of people whom the person feels has mistreated them.
  • Unresolved anger over a negative event which occurred in the past.
  • Seething, aching emotional turmoil felt whenever a certain person or event is discussed.
  • The lack of forgiving, the unwillingness to let go and forget.
  • A root of distrust and suspicion have when dealing with people or events that brought pain in the past.
  • Unresolved grief experienced when finding it difficult to accept a loss.
  • A grudge held against a person or group of people whom the person feels has kept them from achieving anything.
Victimhood, plain and simple. It's the mindset of "I've been hurt and I'm pissed as hell." It's not an outward focus, like thankfulness, but an inward focus. Bitterness doesn't see what's right, but rather what's wrong.

What's more, where thankfulness leads to satisfaction, bitterness leads to a thirst for restitution. It believes that there is a debt to be paid, and the more deeply felt, the more it acts that out. Which can only spawn more bitterness for the victims it leaves in its wake.

Bitterness is also a choice. It's what we choose to see, if we are bitter.

If we become who we hang around, who would you rather have as the company you keep: the thankful person, or the bitter person? Who's likely to be the better leader? Who will be more productive? Who will be the stronger friend?

Like happiness, thankfulness is a choice.


by Brett Rogers, 6/7/2008 7:34:23 AM


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