As a child I was frequently admonished for being ungrateful. My mother told me often how good I had it because I wasn’t born during the war (WWII) and that I should be grateful we had food and a roof over our head. In later years, our GP, the ‘family doctor,’ echoed this sentiment when he suggested how fortunate I was and how grateful I should be for studying at university at a young age rather than having to wait for years as he had, and once again because of ‘that war.’
And of course, there was much – and then some – to be appreciated. I remember the sun streaming in through the curtains one Easter morning, bringing the promise of Spring and warmer weather and Easter eggs. And even though I was ashamed and embarrassed at first, I appreciated and loved my godfather for pointing out my competitiveness in a board game. Nobody else had gone to the trouble and I would never forget.
I so enjoyed spending time with him and his wife in their beautiful house; I loved that she was elegant, even though I did not know the word as a little girl. I loved that she wore perfume; it preceded her wherever she went and suited her to a T. I adored that she was an artist and could create beautiful things every day, with such ease and poise.
But what was it about being grateful that didn’t sit right?
Was I just plain callous and ungrateful or is there more to it?
Reading the first paragraph about being grateful again, do you also get this sense of how sticky, servile and guilt-ridden this much-touted virtue of being grateful is? I must have felt it as a child; the unfairness of being asked to extend a sentiment towards something outside of me, something I had no personal and felt experience of. How come I was born when I was born? Was that my fault and was there a suggestion that I should have been born during the war? What had I done wrong?
There was a feeling of being made beholden to strange people and unknown situations and there was the threat of guilt when being asked to be grateful for something nebulous and unfathomable that seemed to have to do with ‘fate’ – if there is such a thing. And what could I possibly do about that?
Being grateful felt like a yoke and imposition, something that was wielded against and over me to put me in my place lest I forget my inferior position in the overall scheme of things. In later years I would hear the expression ‘being grateful for small mercies’ and it confirmed the implied servitude and the pecking order: beware, your place is at the bottom of the heap and be grateful for what you have. In other words: stay in your place and don’t you dare step out of line!
And to top it all, there was the guilt of being ungrateful, knowing full well that to be a good person means to not ever be ungrateful.
In the second paragraph, the words ‘appreciate,’ ‘love’ and ‘adore’ appear: can you feel the expansion and the spaciousness they bring? Can you feel that appreciation carries no demands, impositions or implied servitude? Can you feel that appreciation does not ask anything of us but is an offering that supports and confirms us? Can you feel and do you know from your own experience that appreciation is felt in your body and can’t help but express and share itself around?
Is it possible that appreciation is part of basic self-care, supports our vitality, is joyful and does not need to put one person down at the expense of another/others?
Can you feel that appreciation does not play power games?
So, what is it about two seemingly very similar words that sets them worlds apart? Did you think they meant the same?
What are we buying into when we just accept what is thrown at us and comply?
What do we subscribe to when we are grateful? Is it that which asks us ‘to be grateful for small mercies?’ Are we saying ‘yes’ to servitude, belittlement and guilt?
And furthermore, what do we know innately as children that we then discard to fit in?
What happens to this inner compass that can feel and knows exactly which direction the wind is blowing from?
And finally, would it be fair to say that we can easily be led astray if we don’t feel, discern and stay with what feels true – regardless of the prevailing winds?
By Gabriele Conrad, Goonellabah, NSW
What is the Science of Appreciation and how does it Evolve All of Our Relationships?
The Art of Appreciation – Helping to Break the Cycle of Self Abuse
Appreciation, Appreciation, Appreciation…..