Self-help books are easy to mock. Too easy. But this one is too hard to resist. In 2008, Thomas Nelson put out Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You by Deborah Norville.

I have not read the book. From the Table of Contents, it looks to be full of sane advice like “Accentuate the positive,” “Give thanks for the bad” and “Grow where you’re planted.” It’s from a Christian publisher, and I imagine that it aims to promote gratitude to God. Fine with all that.

But that title , oh, the title. Gratitude construed as a power (the cover shows a cheerful, confident, beautiful woman - the author, I think - looking very powerful indeed). Gratitude as a subject of science . Gratitude as a tool, technique, technology, instrument to be put to work . Gratitude as something beneficial for you (when one might have thought that gratitude was mainly other-directed).

We have something to learn from HL Mencken, who at least recognized that gratitude is always a confession of dependence and inferiority.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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