Dale Carnegie once told the story of a businessman in Texas who was burned up with indignation. The incident he was angry about had occurred eleven months previously, but he was still burned up about it. It seems that he had given his thirty-four employees then thousand dollars in Christmas bonuses—approximately three hundred dollars each, which was a tidy sum in those days—and no one had thanked him. “I am sorry,” he complained bitterly, “that I ever gave them a penny!”
This man was so full of poison that Carnegie honestly pitied him. He was about sixty years old and had wasted one of his remaining years by his bitterness and resentment over an event that was past and gone.
Instead of wallowing in resentment and self-pity, he might have asked himself why he didn’t get any appreciation. Maybe he had underpaid and overworked his employees. Maybe they considered a Christmas bonus not a gift, but something they had earned. Maybe he was so critical and unapproachable that no one dared or cared to thank him.
On the other hand, maybe the employees were selfish, mean, and ill mannered. Whatever the reason for the resentment was, Carnegie harkened back to quote by Dr. Samuel Johnson, who said: “Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation. You do not find it among gross people.”
The point he was trying to make is this: The man made the human and distressing mistake of expecting gratitude. He just didn’t know human nature.
The lesson for us is to give of ourselves freely without expectation of receiving any thanks in return for it is through the act of giving itself that we grow as human beings.
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