Marcus Aurelius & Gratitude

Pure love can be described as that which is untainted by selfishness and which is unrestricted by any sense of limit. This is a high ideal but not necessarily easy to achieve in practice. It is therefore useful to consider one phenomenon which helps to sustain pure love. This is gratitude.

The ‘Meditations’ of Marcus Aurelius begin with a lengthy expression of gratitude. This is just a short part of it:

Courtesy and serenity of temper I first learnt to know from my grandfather Verus.
Manliness without ostentation I learnt from what I have heard and remember of my father.
My mother set me an example of piety and generosity, avoidance of all uncharitableness not in actions only, but in thought as well and a simplicity of life quite unlike the usual habits of the rich.
To my great-grandfather I owed the advice to dispense with the education of the schools and have good masters at home instead and to realise that no expense should be grudged for this purpose.
It was my tutor who encouraged me not to be afraid of work, to be sparing in my wants, attend to my own needs, mind my own business, and never listen to gossip.

(NOTE : Marcus Aurelius lived between 121-180 A.D. It was whilst Roman Emperor that he wrote the Meditations. He is noted as one of the most famous of the stoic philosophers.)

The expression of gratitude can be most helpful in keeping love pure or, indeed, in restoring it to purity. One lady after hearing this passage decided to write to her parents expressing her gratitude for all that they had done for her. Prior to this there had been some of the difficulties that are not uncommonly experienced in such relationships. A pattern of behaviour and attitudes had built up over many years which trapped both her and her parents and which tended to block the love between them. The effect of the letter was to dissolve all of that, both for her and her parents.

All too often gratitude is not expressed. When it is given voice to, however, the effect can be a transformation. The word ‘gratitude’ is connected with the word ‘grace’. The two often go together.

Practice the expression of gratitude. Observe the effect that it has on yourself and others. Love is the natural in-between and gratitude helps this to be obvious.

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