I Want to Challenge Your Concept of What Gratitude Is

imagesThank you. That’s very kind of you. I appreciate it. I appreciate you.

Such are the responses we give when we feel grateful for what someone does. It is an acknowledgement that what we see, experience, and receive is appreciated.

But is our level of gratitude superficial?

I asked myself this question almost by accident. Over the last few days, I have really been focusing on the importance of “influence” more than “gratitude,” but felt like a 2X4 whacked me on the side of the head when I realized the connection between the two.

So, even though it may seem like a tangent, will you go with me on this? When you were growing up, what conversations did your parents or other adults have with you? What about “influence” did they try to teach you? Parents and youth leaders tend to focus on two “influence” themes. The first is to watch out or stay away from bad influences. One bad apple will ruin the whole bunch. That friend has a bad influence on you.

The second emphasis of “influence” is making certain our influence on others is a positive influence. Set a good example for your younger siblings. Others are watching you. You represent us. These messages are also given by parents, youth leaders, and self-help books which tend to focus on how you can “Win friends and influence people.”

But I fear we as a society are missing one key aspect of influence, or are not sensitive to, and that is how other others influence us in positive ways. There are really three stages, and these include: (1) Acknowledging that something nice was done for you, (2) Understanding the context and effort it took for that nice action or word, and (3) How to share your memory of that person’s efforts by “paying it forward.”

Most people meet the first stage, or acknowledge that something nice had been done for them. We know our manners. Please and thank you.  The second stage consists of understanding the effort that person gave for you, but within the context of what it took for that person to do what they do for you.  Perhaps they were having a bad day, and they still felt you were important enough to invest in you with their compliment or good deed. The final stage is being able to show the greatest level of appreciation by not letting the value of that memory of their good deed die; if someone gives you a compliment, you go out of your way to give others sincere compliments.

On a large scale, I believe this lack of teaching gratitude as it should be taught is one of the primary reasons for the “entitlement culture” and selfishness we see too often in our society. But more on a personal scale, I wonder if I am truly showing my gratitude for the positive influence people had on me, and if my actions prove I am grateful for those influences. If not, perhaps I am not really grateful at all.

Let me know what you think! Do you think we as a society overlook the true meaning of “gratitude,” including overlooking the positive influences people have on us?

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