On Benefits Book III, XVII

“What then? shall the ungrateful man go unpunished?”

What then, I answer, shall we punish the undutiful, the malicious, the avaricious, the headstrong, and the cruel?

Do you imagine that those things which are loathed are not punished, or do you suppose that any punishment is greater than the hate of all men?

It is a punishment not to dare receive a benefit from anyone, not to dare to bestow one, to be, or to fancy that you are a mark for all men’s eyes, and to lose all appreciation of so excellent and pleasant a matter.

Do you call a man unhappy who has lost his sight, or whose hearing has been impaired by disease, and do you not call him wretched who has lost the power of feeling benefits?

He fears the gods, the witnesses of all ingratitude; he is tortured by the thought of the benefit which he has misapplied, and, in fine, he is sufficiently punished by this great penalty, that, as I said before, he cannot enjoy the fruits of this most delightful act.

On the other hand, he who takes pleasure in receiving a benefit, enjoys an unvarying and continuous happiness, which he derives from consideration, not of the thing given, but of the intention of the giver.

A benefit gives perpetual joy to a grateful man, but pleases an ungrateful one only for a moment.

Can the lives of such men be compared, seeing that the one is sad and gloomy⁠—as it is natural that a denier of his debts and a defrauder should be, a man who does not give his parents, his nurses, or his teachers the honour which is their due⁠—while the other is joyous, cheerful, on the watch for an opportunity of proving his gratitude, and gaining much pleasure from this frame of mind itself?

Such a man has no wish to become bankrupt, but only to make the fullest and most copious return for benefits, and that not only to parents and friends, but also to more humble persons; for even if he receives a benefit from his own slave, he does not consider from whom he receives it, but what he receives.