Painting by Audrey Mabee
I’m always happy when I find that a nice hotel exceeds my expectations, but I get impatient when it has a lamp or TV which doesn’t work, or I can’t figure out the shower controls or if it considers itself too fancy to put in a coffee machine. We’re sometimes more comfortable in a budget motel where our expectations are not as high.
We feel gratitude when some kindness exceeds our expectations or is undeserved. David Brooks says “gratitude is a sort of laughter of the heart after some surprising kindness.”.
We’re grateful when some people showed they thought more of us than we thought they did. It is a form of social glue to be repaid forward to another person who also doesn’t deserve it. You’re amazed that life has managed to be as sweet as it is.
G.K. Chesterton wrote that “thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Life doesn’t surpass our dreams but it nicely surpasses our expectations.
Suffer fools gladly. You read that phrase often about prominent people who don’t suffer fools gladly. It’s often taken as a compliment by them. suggesting that a person is so smart he has trouble tolerating people who are far below his own high standard. It’s used to describe people who have the guts to tell idiots what he really thinks. It sounds OK, but when you actually see people in the act of not suffering fools gladly, it looks rotten.
The philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville argues that “politeness is the first virtue, and the origin perhaps of all the others.”
Surprisingly, the phrase originally came from William Tyndale’s 1534 translation of the Bible. In it, Paul was ripping into the decadent citizens of Corinth for turning away from his own authoritative teaching and falling for a bunch of second-rate false apostles. “For ye suffer fools gladly,” Paul says with withering sarcasm, “seeing ye yourselves are wise.”
Many people handle fools well; members of the clergy and many great teachers. I don’t give myself high marks always, but I would never knowingly put anyone in an uncomfortable position.
G. K. Chesterton had the best advice on suffering fools gladly. He put emphasis on the word gladly. “A man and a woman cannot live together without having against each other a kind of everlasting joke. Each has discovered that the other is a fool, but a great fool. This largeness, this grossness and gorgeousness of folly is the thing which we all find about those with whom we are in intimate contact; and it is the one enduring basis of affection, and even of respect.”
At the end of the day, only kindness matters.