The Psychological and Moral Majesty of Trust

When I Reflect Upon My Life, the first thing that comes to mind are the relationships of trust that are absolutely—and thus unequivocally—a fundamental part of my life.  In the language of David Hume (1711-1776), those individuals are truly a marvelous mirror until my very soul.  Indeed, there is no amount of self-reflection that can render irrelevant the magnificent mirror reflections of truly marvelous friends with regard to my behavior.  Indeed, notwithstanding the fact that I rightly grasped how I behave, it is still the case that when a wonderful friend bears witness to what I have done, the friend thereby conveys an affirmation that is ever so meaningful and equally unforgettable.

To be sure, there are successes that mean quite a lot to me.  But those successes do not overshadow a bond of trust.  Not at all.

Given how important the majesty of trust is, then what clearly follows that two of the most significant forms of psychological development on the part of human beings is (1) the deep, deep development of social perceptivity and (2) a marvelous psychological configuration whereby deeply genuine trust is possible.  Needless to say, it is with the capacity articulated in (1) that a person correctly grasps the reality articulated in (2).

The view that I hold is that trust plays a truly definitive role in all person being psychologically healthy.  Accordingly, there is no amount of intellectual ability so majestic or powerful that the significance of trust is utterly irrelevant.  To be sure, people can trust one another in significantly different ways.  Just so, the value of trust is underwritten in both ways, though there may be a difference in the value of trust or the nature of the trust.  A friend may trust me with her/his wallet.  Friends who are parents may trust me with their children.  And friends who are neighbors may trust with the keys to their home so that I monitor their home during their absence.  And of course, it is possible that a friend trust me in all three respects.

And there is the truly sublime truth that the affirmation that is constitutive of being genuinely trusted is not an affirmation that a person can give to herself or himself, no matter talented or perceptive or financially well or successful the person might be.  An equally sublime truth is that being genuinely trusted is not and cannot be anchored in having power over the person who trusts one.  For coercion is not in any a catalyst for being trusted.

A final and ever so sublime truth is that genuine trust can be ever so affirming (without occasioning any arrogance).  Indeed, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that for a truly decent person an immutable truth is that being wonderfully trusted is both a moral and psychological gift that marvelously enhances the trusted person’s determination to be live a life of moral decency.

© 2017 Laurence Thomas

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Dr. David Dao and the Morally Callous Flight Attendants of United Airlines

THE TREATMENT OF DR. DAVID DAO BY THE STAFF OF UNITED AIRLINES was so horrific that it is utterly incomprehensible to me that any airline personnel could have engaged in such behavior. The usual strategy when a flight is overbooked is to seek a volunteer to leave the plane and the incentive in that regard is the amount of compensation that is offered, with the amount offered increasing in the face of complete resistance on the part of passengers. When I am at Hancock Airport in Syracuse (NY), a mere $100 is often more than enough of an incentive for me to get off the plane and fly out at another time—even a different day. By contrast, when I am flying out of Paris (France), a much higher offer is needed before I or anyone will consider getting off the plane.

Thus, the horrific treatment of Dr. David Dao is absolutely incomprehensible to me. The behavior of the agents in their treatment of Dao could not have been much worse if they had all been on crack or utterly drunk. And the point just made holds all the more so given that David Dao is 69 years old and was flying with his wife. There is a modicum of respect which surely any 69-year-old person is owed. To be sure, there are 69 year-old folks who have lots of latitude. Just so, a measure of graciousness and respect is owed to a person of that age. Or so it is in the absence of evidence that makes it clear that the 69-year old individual is rather lacking in terms of having self-respect and exhibiting basic moral decency.

There is not a shred of evidence that suggests that Dr. David Dao, who is 67-years of age, was lacking either in terms of having self-respect or exhibiting basic moral decency. Nothing whatsoever. And that reality makes the horrific way in which he was treated by the flight attendants even more reprehensible and incomprehensible. Quite honestly, I have wondered over and over again whether or not the flight attendants were inebriated—a point that holds all the more so given that Dao is clearly a senior citizen. A modicum of basic respect towards a senior citizen is so clearly appropriate that the horrific attitude on the part of the flight attendants is utterly incomprehensible. More precisely, the horrific treatment of David Dao by the flight attendants reveals a horrific level of moral callousness on their part.

My view is that the behavior of the flight attendants with regard to David Dao was is so callous and indefensible that the flight attendants deserve to be dismissed. For there are times when an immediate 2nd-chance is entirely out of the question. For example, if a male friend of mine raped a female, my friendship with that male would come to an immediate halt. Perhaps some years later, we could be friends again.

Of course, the flight attendants did not commit rape. Just so, their behavior nonetheless revealed such a horrific measure of moral callousness that in my mind they are no longer worthy of employment by United Airlines. At their very least, they deserve to be suspended without pay for at least 2 or 3 months. For they did not just make a mistake—which all of us do from time to time. Quite the contrary, the flight attendants exhibited a substantial measure of utterly callous and, therefore, inexcusable behavior.

© 2017 Laurence Thomas

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Self-Love versus Arrogance

No one can flourish without self-love. And quite fortunately, a most significant truth is that proper self-love is not at all a form of arrogance or egotism. To have self-love is to value oneself all the while making sure that one does not harm or exploit others. What is more, self-love is not at all about running around drawing attention to oneself successes and accomplishments.

In other words, self-love is not at all tantamount to a form of arrogance. Quite the contrary. An absolutely immutable truth is that having genuine self-love typically entails having a considerable modesty. That is because genuine self-love entails having a considerable degree of perceptivity, insight, and self-awareness, but not at all the desire to call attention one’s social gifts.

The reason why self-awareness is so important to self-love is none other than the reality that a person with genuine self-love has a very, very, very deep desire to do right by others. And a very simple truth is that personal insightfulness is typically quite relevant to a person doing right by others. For doing right by others entails both (1) having considerable self-knowledge and (2) being tremendously perceptive with respect to how one may properly assist another. Precept (1) entails having tremendous knowledge about one’s strengths and weaknesses. Precept (2) entails having tremendous knowledge with respect to what the uptake one’s behavior will be like in the eyes of others.

As is obvious, precept (1) is not a form of arrogance. Likewise, precept (2) is not form of arrogance. There is nothing at all arrogant about having considerable self-knowledge and being perceptive. Or to put the point more precisely: Having considerable self-knowledge and being tremendously perceptive is not at all a psychological configuration that yields arrogance and condescension on a person’s part.
Indeed, surely just the opposite is true, namely that having considerable self-knowledge and being tremendously perceptive is absolutely crucial to flourishing without at all feeling the need to be condescending with respect to others.

Indeed, a most interesting truth that in point of fact few seem to acknowledge is that when a person has a truly secure sense of self, then it is very, very, very unlikely that she or he will be arrogant. By contrast, precisely what is characteristic of the arrogant person is that she or her is so insecure that she or he very much needs to be lifted up in the eyes of others.

Self-love is one of the most significant and desirable psychological configurations that a person can have. Unfortunately, the association of self-love with arrogance or egotism has been a tremendous impediment to countless many individuals giving self-love its proper due. That warped association has very much done far more harm than good.

© 2017 Laurence Thomas

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The Black Man Who Killed an Elderly Black Person

Every time I think about the 37-year old black man, namely Steve Stephens, who killed an innocent elderly black male, I am profoundly pained. For all the talk on the part of blacks that black lives matter, I have asked myself over and over and over again: How could a 37-year old black man kill an innocent elderly black person if, indeed, black lives truly matter to blacks?
Of course, the news reports that Steve Stephens his now dead. But that reality does not settle the horrific behavior on the part of Steve Stephens of killing an elderly and innocent black person. And there is nothing that anyone has said that makes any sense of the horrific wrongdoing on the part of Steve Stephens.

Most significantly, I have not at all heard a tremendous outcry on the part of blacks with regard to the horrendously wrongful behavior on the part of Stephens. And that suggests to me that there is a kind of psychological dysfunctionality on the part numerous blacks in the United States.

When a white person kills an innocent black person, it is very often the case that blacks take to the street in protest. Now, to be sure, since Stephens is dead, there is a sense in which protesting his wrongful behavior can be seen as utterly inconsequential—certainly in terms of reminding Stephens of the wrong that he did. Just so, a significant gathering on the part of blacks could be a way of blacks taking a substantial moral stance in terms of how blacks need to conduct themselves.

I do not deny that there is yet racism in the United States. However, an indisputable truth is that there is a perfectly understandable reason why blacks are not seen as models of moral excellence. And that reason is none other than the reality that violence is way too commonplace in black communities. Horrific behavior on the part of the members of an ethnic group towards one another is a very substantial obstacle to the members of that very ethnic group being respected by individuals of other ethnic groups.

Interestingly, there is a very respect in which blacks during the Civil Rights Movement had greater respect among non-blacks than blacks do nowadays. For an indisputable truth is that during the Civil Rights Movement blacks showed a level of moral excellence and determination that very much commanded the respect of numerous non-blacks.

As far as I can see, blacks are doing little nowadays to command the respect of non-blacks. And the behavior of Steve Stephen’s—who killed an elderly black male—mightily underscores the point just made. I fully embrace the view that black lives matter. Alas, unless black lives also truly matter to blacks, then there is a very strait forward sense in which we who are black are not according one another the moral standing that people like the Rev. Martin Luther King put their very lives on the line in order to bring about for blacks.

As we all know, if a white person had killed that innocent elderly black male, there would have been riots in the street on the part of blacks. Well, if in general blacks were going about achieving profound success, we would have a very different form of gathering in the streets on the part of blacks, namely a gathering where blacks majestically inspired one another, as well as non-blacks, to be tremendously successful and excellent. And that would be absolutely awesome and ever so awe inspiring.

© Laurence Thomas, 2017

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Friendship: Aristotle’s Era versus Now

Aristotle’s account of friendship has ever so majestically withstood the test of time. He maintained that there are three types of friendship: (1) friendships of pleasure, (2) friendships of convenience, and (3) perfect friendships. Many centuries later, Aristotle’s three-tier account of friendship continues to be deemed as ever so accurate.
The question that I have asked myself over and over again is whether or not perfect friendships or companion friendships—as I prefer to say—have acquired a richness that they did not have during Aristotle’s era.

Aristotle held that perfect friendships profoundly enjoy one another’s company. Accordingly, they willfully spend a considerable amount of time with one another. Of course, during Aristotle’s era, it is rather clear that spending time together was absolutely crucial to companion friends getting to have both (a) profound insight into one another’s character and (b) the deep conviction that each could fully trust the other. Well, a question that mightily presents itself is whether or not advances in technology have eliminated the need for companion friends to spend time with one another, since such friends can tremendously communicate with one another even though they are oceans apart. Moreover, trust remains ever so important between companion friends notwithstanding. For even if two companion friends are oceans apart, the trust between them remains ever so important.
But if the concluding point of the preceding paragraph is right, then there is a respect in which Aristotle’s account of companion friendship is in need of modification. For he held that companion friends very much look forward to spending time together, where doing so is a very deep sign of their mutual trust. And there is certainly a reason why that is so. While written accounts of this or that physical or moral pain and this or that social and/or professional benefit can be ever so rich and informative, it is manifestly clear that no written statement is the equivalent of bearing witness to the emotions that an individual expresses. So, it is whether we are talking about emotions of joy or emotions of sorrow or pain.

Thus, with companion friends, the ease with which they can communicate with one another via technology does not at all eliminate the need for them to interact with one another face-to-face. And that stands to reason. For no amount of texting can take the place of directly bearing witness to a friend’s reaction or non-reaction. Indeed, there is the expression “pregnant pause”. To state the obvious: That expression is not at all about the act of giving birth. Rather, it is about the moral significance that attaches to a person’s hesitation in responding. Indeed, a pause can be rather informative. If I ask you “How did you enjoy the party last night?” And you respond with “Ah, hum, ah, hum it was interesting,” then you have essentially told me that you really did not have all that good of a time being at the party. For you had really enjoyed yourself, you would have immediately responded with “Awesome” or something akin to that word.

Is it the case that in general technology is marvelously enhancing or enriching friendships? Quite poignantly, it is far from obvious that the answer to the question just asked is a resounding “Absolutely ! ! ! Indeed, it seems that sufficiently many are more besotted with communicating by way of their gadget than communicating face-to-face. And that preference structure is ever so revealing; for it is tantamount to saying that one does not want to be bothered with the actual feelings that person is having. And that is an ever so clear sign that the friendship is not at all the tremendously deep perfect friendship that Aristotle described.

Painfully, modernity allows for a self-deception with respect to deep friendship that in the past was a level of self-deception that was essentially an impossibility. Thus, there is a fundamental respect in which modernity is doing more harm than good.

© Laurence Thomas, 2017

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Believing In Oneself vs Being Arrogant

The movie entitled The Wiz stands as one of my very favorite movies. Diana Ross and Lena Horne were two of the key actors. Over the years, I have watched all or parts of the film at least a dozen times. And perhaps the most moving part for me is when as an angle Lena Horne sings “Believe In Yourself” to Diana Ross, the woman who struggled with being successful. Every single time I watch that part of the movie, I am filled with emotion.

With tremendous majesty, the movie out brings out the profound difference between (1) a person being arrogant and (2) a person believing in herself or himself but who is not at all arrogant. The arrogant person is very much given to drawing attention to her or his accomplishments and abilities. By contrast, the non-arrogant person who believes in herself or himself will characteristically be ever so modest notwithstanding the many ways in which she or he is quite successful. And the view that I hold is that if, indeed, a person genuinely believes in herself or himself, then that individual is not at all given to being arrogant. In other words, I take arrogance to be a horrendous form of insecurity.
Now, it goes without saying that there can be occasions when a person needs to mention that she or has a given skill or wherewithal, where doing so does not at all constitute a form of arrogance. For instance, there was an instance when a person at a grocery store buying basic groceries comes up $4.50 short. I was right behind her and I simply gave her a $5 bill. She looked at me with great puzzlement. But without saying anything about my financial resources, I made it very clear to her that the gesture did not pose a financial difficulty for me. Needless to say, that was all that she needed to know. She teared-up and gave me a hug.

The preceding story strikes as being right in on point in terms of genuine goodwill. For of if a person is indeed acting out of genuine goodwill, then she or he is not at all aiming to draw attention to herself or himself. By contrast, if a person is arrogant, then simply drawing attention to the good that she or he does is very much a defining feature of that person’s behavior.
Needless to say, it is simply not possible for an individual to truly be the author her or his life if the individual does not have considerable measure of self-knowledge pertaining to the way in which the individual pertains to live. But an ever so profound and majestic truth is that a person can have such self-knowledge without being at all concerned to draw attention to that reality.
On the one hand, a a person can be none other than a most majestic author of her or his life. On the other hand, a person can be a quite insecure author of her or his life.

If, as I believe, there is a deep, deep respect in which human beings are foundational, then it stands to reason that whether or not an individual has truly been the beneficiary of majestic parental love can make a major difference in how that child turns out as an adult.
There are individuals who marvelously thrive in the absence of parental love. Frederick Douglass was such a case in point. Hellen Keller was such a case. And I have taught students for whom such a claim is true. But as a modified version of a saying goes: “Such individuals are the exception that proves the rule”.

Far more or often than not, an individual truly believes in herself or himself as an adult only if the individual has properly received majestic affirmation while growing-up.

© Laurence Thomas, 2017

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Office Hours: Now and Then

There was a time when office hours were one of the highlights of my teaching at Syracuse University. Indeed, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that some of the most memorable and, indeed, illuminating conversations that I have had with students often took place during office hours.

To be sure, there were students who dropped by during office hours to discuss either the reading or an aspect of the class lecture. But there were far more students who simply dropped just to have a wonderful conversation. And these were not at all students with whom there was already a marvelous professional bond between us.

Alas, within the last few years I can count on one hand—and not move all five fingers—the number of students who have dropped by simply to have an interesting question. And the point just made holds although I am teaching close to 1000 students each and every academic year. In the Fall of 2016, for instance, the enrollment for my two courses amounted to 600 students: 400 in one course and 200 in the other. But throughout the entire semester, not more than 2 students ever showed up for office hours. And let me add here that there is ample evidence office hour visits have declined across the board.
Clearly, the question that mightily presents itself is the following: Why has there been such a dramatic drop in office hour visits on the part of students? And question just raised holds all the more so given the reality that students are pursuing jobs or post-graduate studies; and in either case a letter of reference is ever so likely to be needed. And an indisputable truth is that nothing gives a letter of reference credibility like remarks that, via concrete example, speak to the genuine intellectual powers of the student for whom the letter is written. And good conservations can bring out that reality in a most majestic manner.

My inclination is to blame the tremendous proliferation of technology which has resulted in countless many young people not appreciating or even grasping the implications of their very own behavior. That is to say, it seems that technology has given rise to a phenomenal decrease in intellectual and moral sensibilities.

Office hours have literally dropped by the way side even by students who are in college in order to obtain the mastery that is necessary for pursuing a career with success. Commonsense should say that forging a wonderful intellectual relationship with at least a few of your professor will mightily enhance your prospects of pursing your career successfully. But seems not to be the commonsense that folks have. And that reality says something quite disturbing about the influence of technology, namely that technology can be a tremendous impediment to our seeing things as we ought to see them.
To be sure, not all people are influenced by technology in a negative manner.

In other words, there is a kind of affirmation that folks are receiving via technology that results in them giving preference to technology no matter when. But if I am right, the question that mightily presents itself is the following: Just how is that so much affirmation is thought to flow merely from receiving a phone call? After all, (a) it is simply not the case that the vast majority of phone calls are occasioned by some urgent matter on the part of the caller. Nor is it the case that (b) nowadays so very many folks are absolutely extraordinary when it comes to affirming another. Claim (a) is obvious. And the truth of point (b) is borne out by the reality that countless many people do not have the command of language that folks routinely had once upon a time. And an indisputable truth is that affirmation is at its very best when the language used to affirm another is truly majestic.

© Laurence Thomas

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The Gift of Insightfulness

HUMAN BEINGS SURPASS ALL OTHER LIVING CREATURES with regard to the capacity to be insightful. Here is a simple definition of insightfulness: The wherewithal to make an accurate judgment regarding how a person will behave even though that person has not in any way stated that she or he would so behave. Human beings can exhibit foresight in all sorts of contexts. Here are a few contexts: (1) a person’s behavior in the check-out line at the grocery store; (2) a person’s behavior when someone takes the seat next to her or him on the vehicle of public transportation that the person is on; (3) a person’s reaction when one passes her or him on the street. And so on.

Most significantly, an instance of insightfulness can take place in a split-second. Indeed, human beings would have to be very different creatures, if it necessarily took several hours or days to exhibit any insightfulness whatsoever. In fact, if it invariably took several days to exhibit any insight, then it would follow that be insightful would be far less beneficial. For part of what makes insightfulness so very significant is that being insightful typically involves the wherewith to have the right view about one has perceived in a very short period of time.

To be sure, there are degrees of insightfulness; and it is manifestly clear that some people are more insightful than others with respect to a given area of thought or aspect of life. Indeed, it is an indisputable truth that human beings can be insightful about quite different things. Susie Que can be absolutely brilliant at picking-up on whether or not a person is lying; whereas Scott is equally insightful at picking-up on whether or not a person thinks that she or he is better than others. And Leslie may be breathtakingly insightful regarding the proclivity of an individual to exploit others.
It would seem that no one is insightful about everything. Indeed, it seems to me that one of the very gifts of friendship lies in the fact that friends bring to one another different ways in which they are insightful, which in turn speaks to the majesty of trust that is characteristic of friendship at its very best. Aristotle referred to such friendship as perfect friendship. However, I refer to such friendship as companion friendship.

The very appreciation of a companion friendship is fundamentally tied to the considerable insight that the two friends ever so graciously contribute to the reflections of one another, where there is no desire whatsoever on the part of either to be superior to the other. In his work, A Treatise of Human Nature, the philosopher David Hume remarked that “. . . the minds of human beings are mirrors to one another”. As far as I can tell, Hume’s remark applies far more significantly to deep friendship than it does to human beings in general; and so to human beings who are complete strangers to one another. After all, we must certainly not at confuse the difference between (1) A person learning how she or he is generally perceived by the members of society and (2) A person learning from another about the very depths of her or his character owing to the way she or he is generally perceived by the members of society. Claim (1) can certainly happen with respect to perfect strangers. But not so with claim (2), since what individuals think about a person can be misguided in substantial ways if it is routinely the case that the members of have a misconception of the person.

Alas, one of the most fundamentally important insights that someone who is unequivocally a morally decent person member of a society can have is tremendous clarity with regard to whether or not in general the members of the society view her or him in either () a positive moral light or () a negative moral light. If the answer is (), then a quite significant and sublime truth is that the person is experiencing a tremendous measure of basic (but ever so fundamental) social affirmation even from complete strangers. Alas, that is one of the defining features of a just society.

© 2017 Laurence Thomas

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The Gift of Gratitude

QUITE OFTEN, I THINK OF GRATITUDE as one of the most magnificent expressions that a human being can display towards another human being. Oh, to be, I fully recognize the importance of love. I fully recognize that there is a respect in which the majesty of love is without equal. But notice the following: Whereas (a) Tremendous gratitude does not need love, it is surely the case that (b) love without gratitude cannot survive. So for all the talk about the importance and significance of love, a quite poignant truth is that love does not overshadow the majesty of gratitude. Indeed, the point holds not just for romantic and parental love but also for the love of friendship.
To be sure, friends do not typically express their gratitude for one another in the way that romantic partners do with respect to one another and parents with respect to their children. Just so, it is typically very, very, very clear when a friend is ever so grateful for the good deed on her or his behalf that was performed by her or his friend.

Of course, gratitude admits of single instances. That is, a person who offered assistance or help who never appear again. There are have been a number when on the subway in Paris I have performed an act that occasioned much gratitude from the individual who was the beneficiary of my behavior. But yet I have never encountered that person again.

Alas, between close friends and family members the opportunity for gratitude will often present itself on a number of occasions. And what is ever so important here is the deep, deep realization that the helpful act of goodwill came from the heart. And the point just made points to something rather fascinating, namely that it is typically ever so clear when a beneficial act for another does indeed come from the heart—a point which holds even more so when the good deed is performed by a friend on behalf of a friend or a romantic partner on behalf of her or his special-other.

It is customary for people to say that human beings cannot live well without love. I most certainly do not object to that point. However, I want to say that it is equally true that human beings cannot live without gratitude. Indeed, some of the most phenomenal memories of my life pertain to expressions of gratitude that I received from different persons.

A most interesting fact about an expression of gratitude is that the expression can be ever so genuine without it being the case that the person expressing the gratitude has offered a very costly gift as a show of thanks. There is a very real sense in which with gratitude it is, indeed, the thought that typically counts so very, very much. I shall always treasure the reaction from my friends who own the café that I frequent (whilst in Paris) when I gave them a box of chocolates that I had purchased for them in the United States. The married couple was absolutely thrilled that whilst in the United States I gave thought to getting them chocolates.

As I reflect upon my life, what readily comes to my mind is not the behaviors that I found to be inappropriate. Rather, I think about the expressions of gratitude that I have received from this person and that person and the other person. What is more, there are no invidious comparisons. For in and of itself, each gesture of gratitude is ever so magnificent and affirming. To be sure, a person can offer something that is ever so inappropriate. But the point I am making here is that in order for a gesture of gratitude to be ever so meaningful, it is not at all necessary that the individual making the gesture offers something that is particularly expensive. Major economic sacrifices are not at all necessary for marvelous expressions of genuine gratitude. Not at all. In that respect, we have a parallel between love and gratitude. Alas, I am not yet able to say, why I find that parallel so fascinating except that both pertain to the proper configuration of a person’s soul—or, in modern terminology, a person’s moral sensibilities.

© Laurence Thomas (12 March 2017)

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The Gift of Gratitude

There is so very much in my life for which I am ever so grateful. To be sure, there have been some rough moments in my life that I shall never forget. But I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that those rough moments do not all diminish the tremendous goodwill that I have experienced in life. What is more, (a) those rough moments have occasioned tremendous insight with respect to very nature of my character and (b) those rough moments have been rather like a most majestic set of lenses.
I have seen so very numerous people become riddled with bitterness. And that is most unfortunate because the evidence is overwhelming that no one is ever better off on account of becoming bitter. Lest there be any misunderstanding, I fully understand why some individuals become bitter. But among the gifts that an individual can give to herself or himself, not becoming bitter is an ever so majestic gift that an individual can give to herself or himself.

And let me be clear, there is a fundamental difference between (a) not becoming bitter and (b) forgetting the tremendous wrong done to one. Fortunately, (a) does not entail (b). And it is quite a mistake for anyone to think that it does.

Most significantly, I have never encountered a case in which a person is better off on account of having wallowed in bitterness. More precisely, it is not as if being bitter is none other than a gateway to moral healing. Not at all. Indeed, quite the contrary seems to be true, namely bitterness is a serious impediment to moral healing.

What is more, a propensity for bitterness is a major impediment to experiencing gratitude. Thus, there is a straightforward sense in which any human being is bitter-off not being bitter. And fortunately, not being bitter does not entail forgetting the wrong that one had to do endure. I shall never forget having been called mentally unstable about 10 years ago by a Syracuse University faculty member. Just so, there is no respect in which I am carrying some sense of anguish and/or psychic pain on account of that remark. Indeed, not becoming bitter does not at entail forgetting the wrong or inappropriate behavior that one had to endure at the hands of another. Not at all. And a quite wonderful truth about the psychological make-up of human beings is that (1) we can remember the wrong that we endured at the hands of another (2) without wallowing in deep psychological pain. There no logical or conceptual connection between (1) wallowing in pain and anguish. And that reality is an ever so profound moral and psychological gift that is based upon the psychological make-up of human beings. The late-Elie Wiesel is an ever so marvelous example of that reality; for he is a Holocaust survivor who went on lead a quite amazing and inspiring life rather than wallow in the pain of having to endure the Holocaust. Indeed, I have had the privilege of meeting students at Syracuse University who lead a truly wonderful life rather than wallow in this or that anguish.

Of course, gratitude is not everything. Just so, a quite sublime truth is that far more often than not the sentiment of gratitude can make a quite significant difference for the better in terms of some aspect of the life that a person lives. By contrast, bitterness is far more about getting even than not; whereas gratitude is far more about recognizing the ways in which one can flourish than wallowing in despair.

© Laurence Thomas, 2017

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