Responding to Ingratitude

· October 23, 2017

What comes from our heart does not always make it to the hearts of others. We’ve all experienced this at some point: we do something for someone with immense caring and they respond with indifference. It is as if goodness, far from speaking a universal language, sometimes gets lost in strange dialects. But responding to ingratitude and the carelessness of others is something we all must master.

In this case, we don’t only speak of the dissonance between what one gives and later receives. We are also referring to the desolate feeling of the heart that does not see or feel or perceive what others do for it. We know, of course, that love itself is invisible, but if others do not see the love in our actions in some way, nothing will make sense.

Some behavioral and business scientists tell us that, in reality, goodness is a disadvantage for social success. In a way, the noble person who always acts with honesty is the one who will fall into deception after deception in this complex river of competitiveness that defines our modern world.

“With a big heart, no ingratitude can close it, no indifference can tire it.”

Leo Tolstoy


This is something we all know. In spite of this, many of us simply choose to act in this way because goodness, to do things from the heart, is a personal value which is worth investing time and resources into. Nevertheless, we cannot deny that deceptions hurt.

The bitterness of not being recognized hurts. Nobody acts with selfishness when they hope that their partner, family, or best friend will perceive these small acts that we do with love. Unfortunately, the hearts of others are sometimes stuck in other frequencies, other channels. . .

responding to ingratitude cartoon

The noble heart and its island of solitude

When someone does something from the heart, multiple dimensions harmonize. It enhances one’s identity, the value of reciprocity, the desire to win favor from what is good, to confer well-being and joy. The person who acts with goodness should feel, effectively, reaffirmed to see that all the energy invested in doing the right thing is worth it. That their purpose has a useful end. However, this is not always the case.

Far from finding a congruence between what one does and expects to find, what sometimes happens instead is a sad injustice. I can think of many examples. We can speak of an older man that gave everything for his children and now he is repaid with solitude. Another good example is a young man who tries to make friends using respect, affection and closeness, and is greeted with teasing and insults.

Nor can we forget the boyfriend or girlfriend that pays attention to detail, who puts the happiness of their partner as a top priority, who worries, constructs, invests time and energy. . .if they see nothing of this in return, if none of this is valued by their partner, then this love is not worth it. It has no value. It is a substitute for love that is better reformulated, or thrown away.

responding to ingratitude

Whoever does things from the heart and is not recognized for it, will end up living little by little in an island of solidarity. In a way, we end up seeming a little like Prospero, a character in The Tempest, by William Shakespeare. Someone who, after being wounded by adversity and treason, becomes a recluse with only his daughter and spirits for company. The play is quiet and spiritual, and the only protagonist that remains is sadness.

Responding to ingratitude: You must live with integrity, not renounce who you are

As Tolstoy said, a great heart is never closed by ingratitude or tired by indifference. We may feel alone at times, there is not doubt about that. Even so, sometimes acting with honesty has a price, and if it is disappointment, we will have to accept it. It is always better to be yourself than to live with the feeling of going against our roots. Our authentic self.

responding to ingratitude hands

Nevertheless, in order to survive in this complex world, and in the day to day of our relationships, it is necessary to create a series of emotional and cognitive “anchors” to hold on to in order to avoid further damage. Because goodness is not synonymous with naivety, but rather with the courage of someone who is faithful to their heart.

  • We shouldn’t become constantly complacent. There is no greater source of suffering than trying to make the entire world happy.
  • Never go against your own needs in order to act “based on what we think others expect of us.” Life is not that complicated.
  • Neither is it good to obsess about being repaid for every thing we do. Goodness doesn’t require tribute, it is enough to be in sync with our values.
  • Remember that constant giving does not strengthen your self-esteem. Sometimes we are obligated to bury our illusions.  So do not hesitate to “give yourself away” sometimes. You will gain in strength and personal balance.
  • Understand, as well, that one who is blind to daily small acts of love will be blind to other acts as well. Because real love does not need grand gestures in order to be recognized.

The art of good will is wise, taking care of the small details, those offered from the heart. . .