Gratitude seems superfluous where gifts are seen as a matter of course or where people assume to have a right to something. The idea of expressing gratitude does not occur to anyone who lives under the illusion of autonomy and believes themselves able to survive independently from others and the gifts of the Earth.
Since independence was so highly valued in the declining patriarchal symbolic order and dependency and neediness were suppressed, gratitude has become a morally demanded, often meaningless, compulsory exercise of good behavior that is relevant in private and religious spheres only. However, we believe that the willingness and desire to express gratitude follows from the awareness that people cannot exist without relatedness.
People who are not able to be grateful for what they have received cannot have a good life. They are not able to love themselves and to be yea-sayers to their own existence, if they cannot be grateful to their mothers or their parents for the gift of life, the gift of language, and for the physical care without which they would not have survived their first years.
Without gratitude for the beauty of the earth and its abundance, without gratitude for what others have created in former times, people cannot know anything about their wealth and about what they are able to give others and the world.
As gratitude is an indispensable part of the idea of gift-giving, it cannot be demanded. When absent, however, it puts pressure on relationships, unsettles the person who gives and prevents them from giving with pleasure. Without gratitude in communities, without the awareness that life and much of what we receive is not self-evident, the joy of giving decreases, and so does the good life of all.