While doing research for a new project, I came across some statistics that shocked me. In the chart below, you’ll see the usage of the words gratitude, generosity, and humility in the English language. As the charts show, there has been a steady decline over the past century.
But as I began to think about it, I wasn’t surprised at all.
If I step away from myself long enough to see objectively, I recognize these forces at work, pulling me in opposite directions. On one side: gratitude, generosity, and humility. On the other side, their antitheses: entitlement, fear, and pride.
So, I pulled the same chart for the word entitlement.
That’s amazing isn’t it?
If you look through the great narratives of humankind, they echo the battle that wages war in our hearts and minds between these two, timeless paradigms. From our very beginnings they have been at work.
In addition, consider the great stories in popular culture: Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter. All of these great stories share a common theme: the battle between these two forces.
I wouldn’t begin to assume the root cause for many of our social and cultural challenges, but I think they can be resolved to these three words and their antitheses.
Whether we want to admit it or not, human beings are driven by three tensions.
Gratitude —– Entitlement
Generosity —– Fear
Humility —– Pride
In every interaction, we can feel these polar forces at work on our being. And should we want to cultivate wholeness in our life, we must learn to embrace those on the left-hand side of the column.
Today, I want to scratch the surface by bringing this paradigm to light. To begin, let’s define these characteristics and how we can begin cultivate them in our lives.
Gratitude finds its root in the Latin word “gratis” which is where we get the word grace. It means finding good will in all things. Gratitude is the understanding that everything we have, we’ve been given. And it begins with the very breath in our lungs. But contrary to popular belief, gratitude is not a feeling or an emotion, it is a choice.
As we begin to understand what we’ve been given, it cultivates an abundance mindset and gratitude begins to take root in our hearts.
Name five things at this very moment that you are grateful for and watch how it changes your mindset.
Generosity is an outpouring of gratitude–it is our willingness to freely give because we’ve been freely given, and at the root of generosity is compassion. When gratitude takes root, it creates compassion for those around us. From there, generosity is birthed.
We must be generous of heart before we’re generous in action.
Pick one person right now that you can be generous toward. Give them your time, give them your money, give them your affection. Simply, give.
Contrary to common belief, humility is not weakness or inferiority. I like to think of humility as confidence under control. As C. S. Lewis said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” When we begin to understand and appreciate others as a part of the bigger story, we’ve begun to understand humility.
And humility has a way of finding us, so we must learn how to find it first.
One of the greatest acts of humility is serving someone else. Who can you serve today?
The Gratitude Cycle
As I’ve continued to study these words, I’ve uncovered a really interesting dynamic: they exist in a cycle with one another. As gratitude grows inside of us, it leads to our desire to be generous. From that generosity, we long to help others–an act of humility. And as humility is experienced by both the giver and the receiver, a deep sense of gratitude follows. And the cycle continues.
Gratitude –> Generosity –> Humility –> Gratitude –> Generosity –> Humility
Do you see?
I’m learning that we cultivate the life we choose by cultivating these three characteristics.
This is my first draft of this concept in my mind. I’m calling it the Gratitude Cycle.
However, on the other side of this equation exists the vice to each of these virtues. And they exist in a cycle as well:
Entitlement –> Fear –> Pride –> Entitlement –> Fear –> Pride
Keep a watchful eye on this battle and arm yourself appropriately. Your whole life is waiting, but it will not be cultivated by entitlement, fear, or pride.