GRATITUDE CALLS ME TO LOVE THE PERSON TO WHOM I AM UNDER OBLIGATION

This is the last paragraph of the self-presentation. Eugene deals with another underlying motive in his relationship with others: what gratitude is for him.

Far from being in my eyes, as it is for many people, an irksome burden, gratitude is one of the things I like best, for it calls me to love the person to whom I am under an obligation. I am happy when I have incurred an obligation to someone who was moved by affection, and if this is an affection that singles me out and is partial towards me, there is nothing I would not do in gratitude for the friendship rather than for the service.
If someone’s feelings towards me are only ordinary and common, when someone does something for me the same as they would do it for anybody, I can only respond as any gentleman would in these sort of circumstances, i.e., with an external show of gratitude, I mean one which does not come from the heart, a disposition to be of service, but in view of acquitting myself of my debt; while in the other case I take pleasure in remaining under obligation.
So my appreciation for a trivial service that comes from the heart of someone who puts me under an obligation is infinitely greater than for an infinitely bigger one that is given only because it suits someone to oblige.

Self-evaluation written for his spiritual director in 1808, O.W. XIV n. 30

With this ends the reflection on Eugene’s self-presentation.

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One Response to GRATITUDE CALLS ME TO LOVE THE PERSON TO WHOM I AM UNDER OBLIGATION

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I could not not come back here following this morning’s reflection and yet I do not know what to make of it. Perhaps it is a language thing but it almost reads as if there is some type of evaluation going on. I think that Eugene is most likely trying to be scrupulously honest about himself, as he knows and understands himself but I find this incredibly analytical, linear and limiting somehow.

    With only my own experience to go on, and hopefully honesty rather than denial I do not understand his use of obligation. While many ‘thank you’s’ are a form only of politeness I find myself often grateful for something as ordinary as receiving help or directions from someone who is paid to do something and I have a genuine desire to thank the person for his or her service/help/directions/whatever. I have also noticed of late that my attitude when I give thanks makes a tremendous difference. No I do not give it out of obligation but rather because I am grateful and part of my heart is given into that. There is on my part at least (and so quite possibly on the part of the other) for there to be some sort of connection made – even if it is just small. My gratitude is genuine as is the joy and sometimes wonder that accompanies it. It might sound a little flaky but that is how it seems to be. Of course it has not always been that way, that depth or degree. But for the most part whether it be for a small ‘service’ or for an incredible gift (of one’s self) the gratitude is more than just pro forma. I often walk away after giving gratitude to the person(s) giving gratitude also to God for that person, that service and how good they were, how easy it was to interact with them and there is so very often a small sense of wonder at simply the sheer goodness of another. It is always sweet somehow and never to be taken for granted. Has it always been thus? No I do’t think so but am a little unsure as to when exactly it all started to change. And so very imperfect. When at times the service of something is poor I can often find myself becoming short-tempered, but in truth it does not last for long and more I find that I truly hate my behaviour, my temper, my lack of patience and perhaps understanding and I suppose I am grateful that it is not usually the case, but it certainly does happen.

    So dear Eugene I have most likely read you all wrong. I find myself quite often moving out of a sense of deep gratitude and love, compassion and I believe it all started with receiving love, but really they are all so interlinked. And it is not reserved just for those who love me – although they do make it all so much easier. As I said I am sure I must not be reading this right for I have read of your great love and your gratitude as the years went on. Whatever it was I think you most likely conquered it (vs covering it up) for you loved so greatly and gratitude like compassion is an integral part of that. I am grateful right now I guess for having this opportunity to look at myself and what I am like, the strong and the weak, the good and the not-so-stellar. Thank you with deep love and appreciation of who you were and are – in the lives of your family and in particular in my life.

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