We don’t need to appreciate what we have
Appreciating what you have and being grateful that it isn't even worse is becoming an obsession following the recession. Young people are criticized for expecting more than they have and because 'this generation is too soft', to fail to think about people worse off than you is 'selfish'. Is gratitude the big virtue its made out to be or is it just an excuse not to want more, even though the situation isn't good enough, or a way to be unsympathetic to friends who need you to comfort them, be their problems large or small?
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You're avoiding comforting someone who is hurt or upset.
If I am upset because I'm ill, the last thing I want to hear is 'be grateful you don't have cancer'. If someone said that to me, I would assume they were trying to get out of actually comforting me – empathising with my pain, the immediate problem that is there and can be fixed by a sympathetic word, a hug or an offer of support. Even if its a problem that can't be solved, I want to hear 'you can get through this' or something, not that my pain isn't real because some people can endure worse.
Similarly, I don't want to be 'taught the lesson' of appreciating what I have by having it taken away from me. I'll just hate you for depriving me of things.
I don't see how your example, which involves lying to someone that they aren't going to die, is the opposite of demanding that someone be grateful. A good friend would be sorry that you were unwell whether you were dying of cancer or just had a bad cold. It doesn't mean lying, it just means not being hard and callous. It is possible to word a truth that could upset someone in a way that is still true but softens the blow.
Well, if 'you' do have cancer and someone tells you that you are not going to die. And this is someone who knows what's going on with you and speaks from experience & skill, s/he is not sympathizing with or comforting you but lets you know the hard facts. Then you should be happy and grateful, so appreciate what you have, because you will survive cancer when others will/have not.
When you are in bed with cold and you know that someone else is struggling with a fatal/near-fatal disease, you are likely to get inspired by their strength.
All illnesses have both psychological/mental and Somatic/physicals elements, keeping a positive mental attitude works to improve your condition; many studies on the placebo effect testify to this.
Don't be resigned about a situation that needs changing.
The tuition fee cap goes up again. It is a blow to you as a student but you say to yourself 'its better than being in some country where most people are too poor to afford any education/where girls aren't even allowed an education'. In fact, the UK's higher education situation is getting a lot worse and could be a lot better – the cap is getting higher, there didn't even used to be a fee cap, at one time there weren't even fees and people were being paid to go to University. Students should be respected for their intelligence and hard work and University should be a hallowed place of learning, not an increasingly corporate place to hand over pieces of paper that are supposed to result in jobs but don't. The fact that a situation exists where someone is too poor to afford, or is deliberately denied education anywhere in the world should be something unthinkable, an absolute outrage that makes the world unable to continue. The best situation we've ever been in is nowhere near good enough, so we need to think of fixes and improvements, in other words, situations better, not worse, than our own – we can't afford to ever be resigned to a bad situation.
Appreciating what you've got is not the same as giving up on any chance at positive change. Appreciating what you have means not being immersed in self-pity and thus resignation. The idea is to stop feeling sorry for yourself, understand that you aren't a mucky bottom-dweller and use whatever power you have to face the enemy.
Understanding that some people are worse off puts you in the position of power to help them and yourself.
If you don't recognize or appreciate what you've got, you'll never have the momentum to use it.
Setting your personal standards too low will cause you to get worse.
A student who gets a B in an exam shouldn't be thinking 'oh well, at least its not a fail', they should be working hard to make sure they get an A, and they should be looking at the people who get an A and how happy they are with their grade, imagining how it would make the student feel as well, so that they are motivated to work hard. They shouldn't even be putting themselves in the same category as people who fail exams if they had any dignity or confidence in themselves as a student.
Students Need to maintain a certain amount of self esteem and believing that a B is not a fail is fine after all its not a fail it is a long way from a fail in fact.
I understand that pushing your limits is important but in the case of moral and self esteem i must say no.
Gratitude can be superficial and dishonest.
If you have a rule of not wasting food because others are starving, are you doing so out of genuine empathy or because you want to feel virtuous and don't want to feel guilty? Is it really an excuse for eating so much? Or are you just trying not to think about the fact that you're out of food and you're still hungry? To emphasise gratitude can mean losing other virtues, such as honesty.
the crux of the writ on the left is that if you're superficial you're not really grateful. But if you're not really grateful then you don't appreciate what you have. The argument thus pushes people to actually appreciate what they/we/you have.
It can become a damaging obsession.
You start out making a rule to notice now and then that others have it worse off than you, so that you don't find yourself complaining about your life as much. You find yourself thinking about it more and more. You read news articles about people in worse situations than you and you find things in every aspect of life where others don't have what you do. It becomes extremely depressing and demoralising to be constantly thinking of all these miserable situations in the world. The News can be worse than any horror story because you don't get to disbelieve it (unless you suspect the newspaper of being spurious) and there's always the chance it'll happen to you – and yet we are encouraged to constantly catch up on world events and the negative news is always emphasised, not the positive news such as scientific developments. You have to shut it out of your mind again if you want to live a normal life.
This looks like a direct contradiction of the point about becoming resigned to fate but it is on the level of everyday functioning, not overall plans for the world. Psychologically damaging yourself won't help you achieve any change because it'll reduce your functioning.
Another way round to look at appreciating what you have is to feel genuine joy at losing something and gaining it again. When I damaged my foot and couldn't walk properly for a week, once it had healed, walking became the most exciting thing I could possibly do for days after. Gaining something you lose can have the same psychological effect as a step forward. The best way to make yourself crave something you're growing bored of is to deliberately deprive yourself of it until you're past your comfort zone.
We need to check luxuries to make sure they're really better for us.
We're in a situation where there's a limit on the amount of luxury we can have, so we need to check what we have to see if it is really necessary or even beneficial. A car would bring me a lot more freedom and job prospects but it would be stressful to drive and put me in a lot more danger than walking, as well as have adverse effects on my health. A larger TV would mean a lot better gaming quality but it would be heavy to carry, it wouldn't fit in my room and I don't have the co-ordination not to eventually break it.
If certain luxuries are actually bad for you, and make you unhappy/angry they are not really luxuries, not for you.
Big screen T.Vs tend to be flat, attaching one as a wall-unit would not take much space... If you order it, movers will bring it in for you and the money you've paid for it + delivery charges, should keep you from breaking it.
You seem to think that weighing the pros and cons of a decision before making it, is not cautious rationalism but 'appreciating what you have'. By the argument on the right, you would be open to getting any luxury for which the pros outweigh the cons.
You could be cautious about getting new things, without appreciating what you already have, deciding that you don't need a new T.V doesn't mean that your old T.V monitor is in tip-top condition, well-maintained and truly appreciated.
What do you think?