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Gratitude

306. Gratitude

  1. agrimony traditional symbol for gratitude. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 172]
  2. Androcles because he had once extracted a thorn from its paw, the lion refrained from attacking Androcles in the arena. [Rom. Lit.: Brewer Dictionary, 33]
  3. Canticle of the Sun, The St. Francis of Assisis pantheistic hymn of thanks. [Christian Hagiog.: Bishop, 296]
  4. Hannah jubilantly thankful to God for giving son.
  5. Magwitch, Abel amply repays Pip for having helped him when in desperate straits. [Br. Lit.: Dickens Great Expectations ]
  6. Noahs altar built to thank God for safe landing. [O. T.: Genesis 8:2021]
  7. Thanksgiving Day American holiday acknowledging Gods favor. [Am. Culture: Brewer Dictionary, 1071]

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gratitude

grat·i·tude / ˈgratəˌt(y)oōd/ • n. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness: she expressed her gratitude to the committee for their support.

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gratitude

gratitude †favour, free gift; gratefulness. XVI. — F. gratitude or medL. grātitūdō, f. grātus; see GRATEFUL, -TUDE.

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gratitude

gratitudeallude, brood, collude, conclude, crude, delude, dude, elude, étude, exclude, extrude, exude, feud, food, illude, include, intrude, Jude, lewd, mood, nude, obtrude, occlude, Oudh, preclude, protrude, prude, pseud, pultrude, rood, rude, seclude, shrewd, snood, transude, unglued, unsubdued, who'd, you'd •habitude •magnitude • seafood • wholefood •Quaalude • postlude • interlude •Ermintrude • Gertrude • unvalued •prelude • quietude • hebetude •longitude • amplitude •similitude, verisimilitude •solitude • plenitude • finitude •decrepitude • turpitude • pulchritude •crassitude, lassitude •solicitude, vicissitude •attitude, beatitude, gratitude, latitude, platitude •exactitude • sanctitude • aptitude •rectitude • ineptitude • promptitude •fortitude • multitude • certitude •servitude • consuetude

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Gratitude

GRATITUDE

Gratitude, one of the social virtues, a potential part of justice. It falls short of the notion of justice because it does not suppose strict indebtedness nor require a full measure of equality in what is returned for benefits received. In a broad sense, gratitude can be considered as the acknowledgment of a favor received from a superior and so includes religion, piety, and observance. In these, however, a strict but not an equal payment is required. Properly, gratitude refers to a debt that is not legal but moral. It inclines men to acknowledge private favors with appreciation and to repay them with kindness.

A benefactor has no strict claim to the gratitude of the beneficiary. Because a gift is freely given, it does not give rise to an obligation in justice to repay it. There is, however, a moral obligation, in decency, to acknowledge the favor and to make some kind of return for it. This repayment involves an attitude of will rather than a material quid pro quo. Hence no one is so destitute that he cannot exercise gratitude. Like beneficence, it is measured by the disposition of the heart: "Since kindness depends on the heart rather than on the deed, so too gratitude depends chiefly on the heart" (st. thomas aquinas, Summa theologiae, 106.3 ad 5). It is to be directed to all from whom favors are received: "However, well off a man may be it is possible to thank him for his kindness by showing him reverence and honor" (ibid ). Repayment by affection should be made at once. A return gift, however, should wait for an opportune occasion. Indeed, if repayment is hurried, it could indicate unwillingness to be indebted, which is itself a form of ingratitude. It is better to return more than received, because there is nothing gratuitous or generous in giving back the equivalent or less. However, repayment of more should not be made from the selfish motive of making others dependent, but should rather spring from the benevolent love of charity. The debt of gratitude never becomes onerous because it flows from the debt of love.

Gratitude can be violated by excess, as when thanks are given for something that should be thankless, e.g., for cooperation in evil, or when repayment is too prompt; by defect, when there is ingratitude. When it is deliberate, ingratitude involves contempt for the favor rendered or for the benefactor. There are various degrees of gratitude: recognizing the favor received, expressing appreciation, and repaying suitably. So also there are degrees of ingratitude: not acknowledging a favor, especially by evaluating it as an unkindness. Speculatively, men consider ingratitude as contemptible; practically, however, it is not uncommon.

Bibliography: thomas aquinas, Summa theologiae, 2a2ae 8, 106, 107. f. l. w. r. farrell, Companion to the Summa (Dubuque 1959). w. l. davidson, j. hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 13 v. (Edinburgh 190827) 6:390392. j. a. mchugh and c. j. callan, Moral Theology, rev. e. p. farrell, 2v. (New York 1958) 2:21432380. b. h. merkelbach, Summa theologiae moralis, 3 v. (8th ed. Paris 1949) 2:836839.

[p. j. kelly]

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