Gratitude and freedom as a philosophy of life


Today’s reflection is the result of an approach from Lawrence W. Reed’s book: “How to prepare for a liberal economy”. This reflection does not address aspects of the liberal economy but uses some of the arguments that the author mentions for the liberal economy: gratitude, freedom and life philosophy.

It seems to me that we make few mentions or show gratitude, giving me the impression that this is because sometimes being grateful causes unease, shame or some negative feelings. What will be the reason for this discomfort? I do not refer directly to those who are reading, possibly you are a grateful person; I mean people in general.

For Emmons, “gratitude is an individual’s recognition of all that is good in his life, and the recognition that the source of this goodness lies, at least in part, outside his own being.” (apud REED, 2019, p. 28). Thus, to be grateful it is necessary to admit that there is something or someone, besides yourself, that influences the event of the facts. Admitting that the individual is not fully responsible for what happens to him can generate discomfort in some people.

The author does not mention it, but I ask myself: is the ingratitude due to the fact that the person thinks he deserves more than what was received, acquired or recognized? It seems to me that there is no contentment, in little or no degree, as if it were the obligation of others, or of the world, to make you happy. Reed says that the people who have difficulty being grateful are usually unhappy people. And it makes sense, because satisfaction will never be achieved, things, achievements and relationships will never be satisfactory. It will be the eternal search for what will not be achieved. I imagine that to feel like this generates sadness.

Emmons (apud REED, 2019, p. 28) says that “grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions with joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness and optimism, and that the practice of gratitude as principles protects them from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed and bitterness.” It seems that feeling gratitude really makes us happier, more amorous and healthier. But does my gratitude affect other people’s lives? Being grateful will influence someone else? When I think of my feelings and sensations, I say that it affects the lives around me. It seems difficult to be at ease with people with permanent negative thoughts, who are always sad, dissatisfied and ill with life. It is as if there are only bad records in life.

I think that life for a grateful person is welcomed as a gift, not always perfect – and I don’t even know what that perfection would be – not always easy or joyful, but still, a gift that deserves to be lived with enthusiasm and gratitude. 

Emmons, in a survey conducted with his colleagues, came to the conclusion that feeling gratitude makes us live longer. “Science around gratitude proves that it is an indispensable element for happiness, and happiness, by its turn, adds 09 years to life expectancy.” (apud REED, 2019, p. 28). I believe that only happy and grateful people will want to live longer.

Gratitude is also a feeling that requires freedom, and this manifests itself as a philosophy of life. However, we will only feel freedom from the moment we solve our problems; more precisely when we meet, we understand who we are, what we represent for ourselves and to others, and where we want to go. That is, when we adopt them as a philosophy of life.

Reed (2019, p. 57) says that “The philosophy of life is made up of two components: the first is how you see yourself. The second is how you see (and interact with) others in society.” It is easy to assume that to perceiving the other, and with him or her interact, requires self-knowledge. How to develop a philosophy of life without knowing the most about yourself? 

He mentions that a free person, and therefore with self-knowledge, enables a free society, the “[…] freedom is built through the ability of a society to self-govern. This ability of self-government is in itself built […] on the solid basis of the individual character” (REED, 2019, p. 42). The condition of freedom as a philosophy of life is character, good character. Being free, says the author, requires the experience of high standards of character

It is assumed that character becomes necessary so that the individual does not require freedom as something exclusive to himself, but that he understands it as a possibility for all who want it. Reed mentions that one should not expect to be free and at the same time support the suppression of the freedom of others.

To realize that freedom is something for all, it is necessary to admit that what belongs to me is an achievement achieved with the help of other people who deserve gratitude. To perceiving the meaning of the other requires the existence of self-knowledge and a well-developed character, and for that it will be necessary to develop the philosophy of life.

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