Have you ever heard the term “sour grapes” from the fable The Fox and the Grapes by Aesop?
The fox in the story attempts to reach a bunch of grapes on an out of reach vine. He fails in his attempt, and instead of accepting his failure, he says the grapes aren’t tasty enough anyway.
The book I’m currently reading, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking by Daniel C. Dennett, prompted me to reflect on this phrase.
Dennett says, “… sometimes people pretend not to care about something they can’t have by disparaging it.”
He suggests one might simply mention the term sour grapes to encourage someone to reflect on their own about their thinking. The term is an “intuition pump,” as he describes it, that can catalyze one’s own intuitive powers and evolve their perspective.
A series of related examples I’ve come across recently ran through my mind. The most memorable being Trump saying he didn’t want Time’s “Man of the Year” distinction anyway, while Time magazine said it was not offered.
An author and mystic I deeply admire, Toko-pa, shared this quote from the book Wild Women Who Run with the Wolves By Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Esteson on her Facebook page,”It is a psychic fact that when one has given birth to a beautiful thing something mean will also arise, even if only momentarily, something that is jealous, lacks understanding, or shows disdain. The new child will be called down, called ugly, and condemned by one or more persistent antagonists.”
This quote, to me, rings with sour grapes also. The mean child being jealous of the beautiful child, not recognizing the value of its unique existence, letting shame burn a hole in its heart.
We’ve all experienced this feeling of sour grapes. Success and the pursuit of happiness are so lauded in our society, yet teamwork, humility, and compassion are often left untouted by the loudest voices. It’s no wonder we would feel ashamed by a failed attempt, or unworthy due to lack of achievement.
These sour feelings of disappointment don’t need to define our responses to situations. We are able to choose how we perceive things. If we fail, the opportunity to see the lesson, adjust our course, and try again is in our hands. If we see others succeed and shine, it’s our success too. We all play a part in one another’s wins and losses.
The truth is, we don’t know how anything will work out. The grapes may be out of reach. We may have wanted them badly and tried with our best effort to reach them. We may see others applauded and accomplished while we feel unseen.
Letting go of expectations for how our experience should look can make that sour taste turn into the lingering sweetness of gratitude.
Support others with compassion and generosity. Don’t let achievements be your definition of worthiness. You are worthy now. These strengths of character are the sweet grapes you’ve been longing for all along.