Are you hearing and reading a lot about gratitude lately? How do you feel when you hear "be grateful"? Grateful for the small things in life, thankful for the chance for growth from painful experience - does hearing that irritate you sometimes?
My mom has not been a superb cook, to put it mildly. When I did not empty my plate, she used to say: "The people in the third world would be grateful for the food." And how often did grown-ups tell you to say "thank you" when you were still a kid.
I am convinced that manners are a great cultural technology and helpful to get along with each other. But saying "thank you" automatically, as a reflex, makes the word an empty shell.
Why should people not express when they don't like a present? Shouldn't the goal be to express your emotions without fear of hurting someone else?
And how about non-verbal expression? When my eyes light up, isn't that enough?
Many people had internalized the reflex of "thank you" so much that they even say it when they did something for someone else or a person has been rude.
We dislike to be told what to do. It creates resistance. That is normal, for nobody wants to follow orders.
He alone is free who lives with free consent under the entire guidance of reason. - Baruch Spinoza
What do we like about manners? If I do something polite for someone, I might get a smile in return or a "thank you." I feel acknowledged. My good manners and politeness create an echo. I thank you and you smile at me. You will have a better opinion of me.
Am I polite because I am feeling grateful or to create an echo and motivate you to a positive response?
What if someone is in a rush or rude and just ignores me? Will I be disappointed? Will I become judgemental and think something along the line of
When you analyze these thoughts, you will conclude that you need that "thank you" to feel good and acknowledged. If I exaggerated a little, I could say: Your self-esteem depends on it.
What if nobody acknowledges your good manners and politeness for an entire day? Or week? Would you question yourself?
If it's a good idea to depend on this kind of social acknowledgment is a question for another day.
What it is not is gratitude.
Gratitude is crucial. It's an essential component of happiness. Positive thoughts attract positive outcomes. Cheerful people achieve more.
In my life, gratitude is of paramount importance.
Manners are not gratitude. Doing something to get something in return is not gratitude. Gratitude is without expectation. It is not a reflex, a meaningless automatism.
Gratitude is the way you face the world and how you connect with it.
To me, gratitude also means to not taking things for granted.
You probably never suffered from hunger in your life. Or thirst. Clean water is available through the taps in your bathroom, kitchen and in your shower. You probably were never homeless and always had a roof over your head.
Throughout your life, there was probably always someone who loved you.
We can be grateful for what we have, even though we have it every day. I could never relate to the quote: "You only know how much something means to you when you have lost it."
I am grateful every day for things that I always had.
Yes, we learn a lot from painful experiences. Through them, we became who we are now. Still, I would never tell people to be grateful for pain. That would be cynical.
The feeling of gratefulness for negative experiences only manifests in retrospective.
Did you feel gratitude? How does gratitude feel for you?
Maybe you decide that you will continue this exercise. Or you might want to come back to it from time to time.