LEIDEN – Today, I will be showing gratitude.
A lack of gratitude is often at the root of a variety of the ills that plague relationships. When a wife or husband never shows appreciation for their spouse, the embers of their love are soon extinguished. When a boss never thanks his employees for what they do, the employees start to resent both him and their job. On the flip side, nothing can buoy up our relationships quite like gratitude. A warm word of appreciation can instantly thaw the ice between people. We often assume that people either get thanks from other people or that they just somehow know how grateful we are for what they do. We are usually wrong on both counts.
I couldn’t agree more, for once. Taking for granted that which is given to you out of love, kindness, or consideration is a death sentence for one’s humanity.
So, what prevents us from showing our gratitude more freely?
Gratitude is inextricably tied up with the virtue of humility. Gratitude shows that we’re paying attention to the acts of service people perform for us and that we truly understand how those acts make our life better, easier, and happier. The ungrateful man is callous; he’s come to think that all the good things that happen to him and all the service rendered him are an automatic response to his impeachable awesomeness. He deserves all that stuff and more.
Thus, he never takes notice of the good things that happen to him. And he’s never really happy with what he has. He deserves only the best in life, and concentrates solely on the ways in which this ideal hasn’t been met.
The grateful man is a humble man. He has no illusions of his grandeur. He knows that bad things happen to good people. He knows how easily a rally can turn into a slump. He knows how much worse off many others are than he is. He understands the sacrifices others make on his behalf. And he deeply, deeply appreciates them.
What I fail to understand is how this applies to men only. If that is indeed the implication here. One could easily see how an ungrateful person is callous. But, showing humility by being thankful for received kindness in the face of an uncaring world is not especially manly, isn’t it.
On the other hand, what we have encountered here is a righteous man, one moral philosophers have been raging about for centuries. I imagine it being quite manly to be righteous. Heroes are righteous, and they are almost always male. Same goes for the raging moral philosophers. The man who has a vested interest in the justness of the world is someone who has his principles straight.
It’s a bit thin, though. This is not specifically making me a better man. Much rather a better person.
But, all right, I am getting on board. What do I have to do?
Today’s task has two parts to help you work on both your personal gratitude and also on showing your gratitude to others.
Part 1: Cultivate Your Personal Gratitude
It’s time to take stock of all the good things in life that we have to be thankful for. So task #1 is to make a list of 10 things that you’re grateful for.
When you start, big things will probably come to mind first: health, family, job, kids ect. But remember gratitude will really work its magic in your life when you start taking notice of the great layers of pleasure present in everyday things. We often walk around like zombies, totally numb to the great beauty and joy we experience each day. So think about really specific things. Not just “I’m thankful for my wife, but, “I’m thankful that my wife makes me laugh every day.” Not just, “I’m thankful for my kids,” but “I’m thankful for how happy it makes me when my kids rush to the door when I come home from work.” It doesn’t have to be deep stuff. You can be thankful for a delicious meal of beer and pizza or how fresh the house smells when the windows are open. Really take some time to think about the stuff that gives your pleasure and happiness.
Okay, let’s do this*:
- I am thankful my friends pick up the phone when I call them at 3 a.m.
- I am thankful for the way lime smells.
- I am thankful for the aftertaste of a good Gewurztraminer.
- I am thankful that I discovered the music of Leonard Cohen.
- I am thankful for the fact people didn’t forget about me during my six month in Africa. How sappy of me.
- I am thankful for how my time in Uganda showed me how privileged I am and how grateful and gracious I should be in life.
- I am thankful for the people who’ll listen to me endlessly repeating myself. You know who you are.
- I am thankful for my parents for the way they instilled cultural capital in my upbringing.
- I am thankful for everyone who keeps up with my slightly insulting humor and jokes.
- And lastly, I am thankful Vincent van Gogh existed so I can visit a museum and look at this paintings.
*They’re not quite ranked.
Part 2: Show Your Gratitude to Others
Too many times we skimp on the thank you’s because something has happened so often it’s become routine or we figure the person already knows how thankful we are for them. But as I said above, they often don’t, and even if they do, telling them directly will warm their soul and make their day.
So task #2 is to give 3 thank you’s to 3 different people today. These have to be specific thank yous. I’m not talking about the waiter bringing your soup and you saying, “thank you,” in return, although you could at the end of the meal say, “I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am for the extraordinary service you gave tonight.” It’s okay to thank people just for doing their job well. Yeah, they’re just doing their job, but I think we all know plenty of people who can’t even rise to that level, and I’m personally grateful when people have enough integrity to do so.
Sure thing. I still fail to see how this makes me a better man. I decided to play the game, so I enthusiastically thanked the cashier girl at the supermarket today. She looked at me weird and totally uninterested. I guess she does not give a shit she’s doing a supremely good job at moving my items over the bleeping sensor.
“Warming souls” and “making people’s day” sounds way too cozy for me. Too clingy. But there’s nothing wrong with saying “thanks” every once and a while to people who provide a service or do you a favour. Just don’t get too sappy and start thanking everyone for hanging out with you ’cause you love them so much. It’ll get slightly uncomfortable that way.
Man-meter: I feel some gratitude. So I guess that’s good.