Posted by: jackslife | June 16, 2009

Contentment and Cultivating Gratitude

Mark T. Mitchell posts on cultivating gratitude in children over at FPR.  He touches on some points that I have long been pondering and working on in my own life.  One of the things that I have really tried to work on is developing more of a contented view of my life.  Mark points out the connection between consumerism and contentment in his post.  Here’s a good section about this –

Our commercial society, exemplified by but not limited to commercial television, plays an important role in this frantic lifestyle dedicated to getting more. We may watch television for the programs, but the programs exist to induce us to watch the commercials. And the commercials, if they are successful, create in us a profound sense of dissatisfaction. They remind us of all the things we don’t yet have. They seek to convince us that what we have is inadequate, outdated, and ill-equipped to make us as happy as we deserve to be.

Commercialism creates dissatisfaction—that, after all, is its purpose—and dissatisfaction is right next door to ingratitude. When we are unsatisfied with what we have, we are constantly thinking about how to acquire those things we think we need. When we are thus consumed, it is difficult to be grateful for the very things we wish so desperately to replace or supplement.

He goes on to talk about things that parents can do to instill this virtue of gratitude in their children.  I think that the key one that he touches on is –

Hard work comes to mind as at least a partial solution.  Now, I’m not sure that work, itself, makes one grateful, but I am convinced that a well-developed work ethic is a necessary condition for gratitude. Work helps one appreciate the price of things.  I can recall splitting and stacking huge piles of firewood when I was a kid and, if I wasn’t grateful for the assignment, I do recall being grateful when the job was finally done (and ironically, I did develop an affection for splitting wood). A sense of satisfaction accompanied the completion of the task. And I was clearly contributing to the success of the household. The work forced me out of my self-absorbed shell and into the wider world of a household economy to which I could contribute. Actively contributing to the household, rather than passively receiving, is an important step on the road to gratitude.

I especially like the idea of tying the concepts of work and responsibility to goods and privaledges.  I have never liked the idea of a simple allowance, as I think that the distribution of money to children for no reason can certainly form bad ways of looking at work and money.  I also don’t think that absolutely all work by children should be awarded with money, as some chores are just a part of bearing the load of the family.  I would see there being special projects that could be awarded financially, while other things would just be work that is done because you are a part of the family.  Of course, as a non-parent, my thoughts are probably not worth a whole lot at this point.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: