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Three Images for Gratitude: Soil, Lubricant, and Glue

In her book The Gift of Thanks, Margaret Visser uses three concrete images to convey the power of gratitude—gratitude as soil, lubricant, and glue. She writes:

[Soil] refers to the disposition of the person to be grateful, and his freedom to choose not to be. He is able to "cultivate" in himself a grateful disposition …. An ungrateful disposition, by contrast, is hard and dry, not easily moved by kindness, unwilling to be kind in return …. In European languages people often talk of poor soil as "ungrateful."
Gratitude is [also] a social "lubricant" …. It makes things move smoothly; after all, giving and giving back are movements back and forth …. When there is no gratitude, there is no meaningful movement; [relationships] become rocky, painful, coldly indifferent, unpleasant, and finally break off altogether. The social "machinery" grinds to a halt.
[Finally] … gratitude is "glue." The image points again to the social cohesion that gratitude supplies. Modern society is experienced as fragmented, in danger of flying apart … Gratitude is "a kind of plastic filler," "an all-purpose moral cement," a sort of magic paste that is amazingly malleable, squeezing itself into the cracks and then solidifying and strengthening the social structure.

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