Weekly Dream: Things Fall Apart-Ingratitude

“Sometimes, your best is not good enough”
-Me to R.

“People get worse, when there is no incentive to get better”

In my household, ingratitude was a cardinal sin. Even if you did not get exactly what you wanted, you appreciated what you did get. My dad called my brothers and I “benefit brothers” whenever we neglected to say thank you and focused on the gift and not the giver. At the time, we thought he was being sensitive, until we grew to manhood and realized how much effort and a show of concern it was for my parents to give us good things.

Do you know someone who is never happy? Whenever you talk to them, nothing is going right? This kind of individual always complains and the glass is always half-empty. I hate this type of person, and hate is a strong word. But if God hates ingratitude and unthankfulness, then I figure I am in good company. Ingratitude is defined as not only taking things for granted, but not assigning a proper value to the things/people/situations in your life. Where there is ingratitude, pride, self-righteousness and entitlement are right around the corner. But that is a topic we will discuss next week.

As a sidenote, ingratitude has been a sticking point with me as far as my relationship to American society. In other countries, people are so thankful, when they have dramatically less than we do. And they never forget what they have been through. But people who have never experienced hardship tend to be the most unthankful. It takes a certain level of humility to realize that the little bit you have can be gone tomorrow.

In a Relationship

Humans have a basic need for recognition and appreciation for their contributions. Think about if no one ever said thank you to you or complemented you on a job well-done? You do not need it, but credit should be given when it is due. Eventually, bitterness and resentment will begin to set in, if you constantly give and nothing is given back. I am willing to bet you will not stay at that job for long. In fact, studies have shown that people would rather have recognition than a pay raise. And really, what is a raise but a monetary equivalent to a thank you and a job well done.

In relationships, people settle into routines and come to expect certain things. Pretty soon, people begin to believe that they are entitled to certain treatment rather than seeing the treatment as an expression of love or respect. Complacency and apathy begins to set in. They do not put forth the effort they once did. This happens once people get used to each other. They might let their hygiene slip, stop working out, or doing those little things that show they are paying attention. What happened? It tends to make you feel like you are not worth it anymore and then you start acting the same way.

Let’s be clear, outside of a respect for your basic human dignity, no one owes you anything. No one has to do anything for you-no matter how special you are. Any thing that happens to you, be thankful for it, because it is either a lesson or a blessing. Be grateful for the people in your life and who care about you.

Indeed, think of people who you have loved, who took you for granted, who did not recognize your value and the sacrifices you made? Why? Because life is hard and anything won does not come easy. It takes restraint to not follow your instincts, and to mute the dark side of your personality, especially in a relationship. A relationship is a team effort. It takes effort to listen when you want to yell, to be patient while the other person works out their issues, to provide etc. It is tremendous investment of energy and resources-it is only natural to want a return.

But when the other person (hopefully you are not the ingrate in the situation) does not recognize or express gratitude in the way you would like, what should you do? That is not an easy question to answer. Perhaps the other person is not aware of it. And that is when you have to speak the truth out of love. However, before you confront them, look to the areas in your life where you exhibited ingratitude-inside and outside the relationship. In that conversation, discuss what you like or appreciate about each other. This should be a common practice. There is nothing more charming, endearing and disarming as a sincere thank you, kind word or gesture. Also, be specific. Think of how you want them to show their appreciation and ask them if there is a way they might want you to show them. It could be that you are just speaking different love languages.

As I have said before, gratitude must become a way of life. It must permeate your entire being and your relationship. God has put these people in your life for a reason-cherish them and they should do likewise. However, if you or your significant other do not know what purpose you play in each other’s lives, then ingratitude results. So clarify your purpose. Have that conversation. Why am I here? Why are you here? If nothing changes after you confront them or you still feel unappreciated, then you have soul searching to do. You have too much too offer to continue to be taken for granted by anybody.

Tomorrow is not promised

Life is so short. Whenever I do not feel thankful, I go back to where I have come from, to the people around me. Even through the rough spots, my motto was, “it could be worse.” I think of what if the person around me was no longer here or if I was no longer alive, what is the last thought I want them to have of me? Or I try to think of the most morbid scenario and it makes me feel better.

Thus, I try not to let a day go by without showing or expressing my gratitude to everyone I meet. You can do the same by being courteous, interested, and aware of the person in front of me and letting them know I understand their purpose in my life. To be honest, most people do not stop and consider that, but that’s why you’re here ;).

Know your worth and the worth of others.

A relationship takes effort, never stop dating.

Reset and return to your first love.

Don’t be a benefit brother/sister.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: In what instances have you encountered ingratitude and how did you handle it?

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the weekly dream

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