Life is difficult. Life is often not fair, sometimes full of suffering and ultimately limited for all of us. How do we cope with these truths? We cope by living, loving and doing the best we can with what we have. And if we are smart or lucky, we discover the amazing tools of respect and gratitude.
We are taught from a young age the importance of saying “please” and “thank you.” Please is the term that allows us to ask for what we need or want from another person and simultaneously communicate our respect and understanding that the other person’s decision to honor our request is their choice, not an obligation. Thank you is the phrase that conveys appreciation for another person’s kindness, caring and responsiveness to us as a human being—in short, an expression of gratitude.
When we are young, please and thank you are terms without real meaning. We are taught the habits of respect and appreciation for others before we can really understand what these terms mean and how important these attitudes are to creating smoother relationships and a happier life. Over time, we understand that these terms have deep value and that they not only serve others, they also affirm our worth.
When we respect others, we are tacitly endorsing the belief that we, too, deserve respect. Offering thanks to others helps focus us on the positive aspects of what is happening in our lives. Expressions of gratitude may also have the effect of eliciting others’ appreciation of us. Giving respect and appreciation also helps us feel good about ourselves, thereby having the effect of increasing our self-esteem. Our understanding of these concepts deepens throughout our lifespan. Let’s talk about the roles of respect and gratitude in our lives:
- What do the terms please and thank you convey to you?
- Have you ever held resentment or anger about an event in your life that sometime later, perhaps long after the event, shifted to gratitude?
- How does it feel to express these words to others? Does the feeling or meaning differ when you say them to people you don’t know as compared to offering them to people with whom you are close?
- What roles do respect and gratitude play in your life now?
- By whom in your life do you feel most respected and appreciated and who do you most respect and appreciate? Have you told them?