Thieves of Thankfulness – Why Cynics Struggle with Gratitude

Research indicates the top three thieves of thankfulness are narcissism, cynicism, and envy/materialism. Narcissism tops the list. Second on the list is cynicism.

The original cynic philosopher, Antisthenes, taught in a gymnasium outside Athens called The Silver Hound. Diogenes is the most famous cynic. He criticized social values and institutions believing they were corrupt. He is the founder of Stoicism.

The word came to mean a sneering sarcastic person.

Cynics lean toward ingratitude.

Image of a field with the sun coming up over the trees.

Practicing gratitude magnifies positive feelings more than it reduces negative feelings.


A cynic believes only selfishness motivates people and disbelieves selfless acts.

You might be a cynic if you:

  1. Are frequently sarcastic.
  2. Loath cute animal pictures on Facebook.
  3. Think compliments are usually fake.
  4. Believe people usually want something from you.
  5. Think people who are struggling are faking it.
  6. Lean toward mistrust.
  7. Reject optimism in favor of skepticism.

Being cynical has its uses. If you weren’t at least a little cynical, you’d actually believe everything on the news.

Cynical about gratitude:

Gratitude doesn’t necessarily eliminate unhappiness; it’s a magnifier of positive emotion.

Robert Emmons writes, “When people are grateful, they aren’t necessarily free of negative emotions—we don’t find that they necessarily have less anxiety or less tension or less unhappiness. Practicing gratitude magnifies positive feelings more than it reduces negative feelings.”

4 benefits of gratitude:

  1. Grateful people cope with stress in healthy ways.
  2. Grateful people benefit from the support of others.
  3. Gratitude can help you control your responses to negative events.
  4. Gratitude can help you be less impatient.

Practical considerations:

  1. Reject the myth of self-sufficiency.
  2. Reflect on limitations.
  3. Notice how you rely on others.

Gratitude and humility are playmates that support each other.

Part 1 of Thieves of Gratitude explains the relationship of narcissism and gratitude.

Four Ways to Practice Gratitude When you Don’t Feel Grateful