Saturday, September 10, 2011

Not to worry about whether I'm appreciated

I was explaining to my 7-year-old son that his dad and I receive the same amount of money, after a question he asked me about incomes. At the moment, it's true. As a full-time student, my husband's Austudy allowance is pretty much the same as my parenting allowance. Anything I receive from writing is a bonus. My little boy was taking that in when his 16-year-old brother remarked, "Well, at least Dad actually works for his," or something like that.

"Hey? What did you just say?"

I'm afraid it regenerated into an exchange of heated words. I found myself beginning to spiral down to a place I didn't want to find myself - the pity party. You may have been there. How can this person not perceive all that I do, not only for him but all day long? This came straight after I was vacuuming around his computer chair while he was sitting in it, etc, etc. I managed to catch myself in time before I really started to wallow in all the bad party food that makes me feel sick. It's a sign that keeping this blog is a good influence in my life, I hope.

Firstly, I remembered some wise advice from Dale Carnegie, in his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. He'd just told the story of a boss who was burning with bitterness because he'd given each of his staff a Christmas bonus and nobody thanked him. Carnegie remarked, This man made the human and distressing mistake of expecting gratitude. He just didn't know human nature. The crux of his chapter was simply that. Human nature has remained pretty static for aeons and probably won't change in your lifetime, so just accept it and get on with your life.

I remembered other bad-mood-making incidents I've experienced. A common thread they've contained is me chafing over some perceived lack of appreciation or gratitude, and people not giving feedback for a job well done. How silly to get our feathers ruffled because of the way human nature is wired. It's as foolish as griping because the sky is blue and your favourite colour is red. Jesus healed 10 lepers one day, yet only one returned to thank him. Why should we expect anything different? Why should I take my poor son to task when I know in my heart that teenage boys simply aren't wired to notice such things. (After a bit of yelling, he actually said, "I didn't mean it like that," which, while not an apology, is the closest thing I could expect.)

Another silly thing I do is gauge my effectiveness by the amount of positive feedback I receive. When I hear praise, I happily feel that I'm on the right path. When none is forthcoming, I begin to question the wisdom of the way I'm spending my life. It's time to stop being a ridiculous human barometer with praise as the mercury. I'd rather be a steady, glowing thermostat who knows deep in my heart that my contribution to life is valuable, no matter what others are saying.

I think the nature of what I do has made this more of an issue for me than it might be for others. Authors hope for positive feedback from readers and reviewers, while people such as parking inspectors, office workers and train drivers may find it easier to go about their daily work without expecting gratitude. Sometimes I've longed for the simplicity of the job of a parking inspector, office worker or train driver, yet instead of making such a hard core change, I can simply stop my thirst and craving for the one thing human nature isn't naturally inclined to give. When I think about it, this is as silly as someone remaining dissatisfied because of their insatiable craving for dodo-bird schnitzels garnished with hen's teeth.

Over the last few days, I was very pleasantly surprised to receive two thank-you messages from people whose manuscripts I wrote reports for in a competition. I found out that reports were returned to 25 writers and I was genuinely stunned when 2 thought to thank me. This seems consistent with the ratio of Jesus and the 10 lepers, even though writing somebody a few pages of feedback is nothing like healing somebody of a fatal, regressive disease. It proves also that appreciation isn't quite as rare as hen's teeth. I'd like to be found among the number of those who do feel and express gratitude and appreciation. Especially now that I've experienced first hand, after hearing from these two people, how it brightens the day of the recipient.

Centuries ago, Dr Samuel Johnson said, "Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation. You do not find it among gross people." Let's be unlike the mass and be vigilant to sow gratitude seeds always.


  1. Or as my Dr said to me yesteday, Jesus said on the cross "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do". Ain't that the truth ... people just don't realise the way they hurt others, especially when they forget to say thank you or express gratitude.

  2. Absolutely right, Janet. I'm sure what they call sins of omission are far more common than sins of commission. I speak for myself here too.

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  4. There's a lot of power in simple thankfulness. While we know it's offered less than what it should be, we can remedy this in part with our own gratitude. Much easier for the good stuff, less so for life's tribulations... all of which we are commanded to thank God for. Thanks for the reminder Paula :)

  5. I'd like to be a glowing thermostat too, please. :)
    And here is a little thank you for you Paula:
    I always appreciate your thoughtful blog posts, thank you.

  6. Hi Paula. Isn't it so hard for us to die to self? Yet when we do thanks are like bright spots in our day. The other side of the coin is to be the person that always spreads gratitude. I need practice in that skill as well. Jo xx
    PS. I wasn't one of that 25 but thanks for the unbelievable task you have undertaken on our behalf. Amazing. :)

  7. Thanks for your encouraging voices, ladies.
    Dorothy, it's amazing how simple thankfulness can be far more profound than we expect.
    Penny,I really appreciate the feedback you've given this blog. I always enjoy yours, too.
    Jo, you said it! Attitudes make such a difference. When we expect praise as our due, it's a recipe for discontentment. I've still got some reading to finish off and some reports to write. Did you know that there were 65 manuscripts in the end? For awhile, I felt that holding a normal sized book instead of a hefty A4 sized manuscript felt weird. :)

  8. As I read your post, I was reminded of the thought that I've been living by over the past week... and that is ... everything we do... we do for an audience of One - Lately I've been hearing a God whisper of 'thankyou' pretty powerful. When it comes from Him it doesn't need to come from anyone else.
    great post - thought provoking

  9. Paula, what an important reminder to work because we are pleasing the Lord, and not because we need to hear "thank you." Great post! Amy

  10. Hi Michelle,
    That "Audience of One" whisper has repeating itself to me lately too. Hmmm, very interesting. Thanks for your thanks, also. I guess you recognized yourself in this post :)

  11. Hi Amy,
    It's great to hear from you. Your book just arrived in my mail box yesterday and I've read the first two chapters already! I'm anxious to get stuck into it.

  12. I'm always thankful to count you among my friends Paula. :o)

    Here's a little exercise for you that might help. Seemed to work with my teenagers.

    First, write down everything you do each day to keep the house running smoothly. Add any time working on writing, since that is technically part of your job.

    Second, give the list to your kids.

    Third, go away with your husband for a day or two and let the kids take care of things.

    I think mine realized around 1am the first day that I don't just sit around all day. And as a bonus, I had a nice, restful getaway with my husband. :o)

    In all fairness, it was a typical teen boy thing to say. And you were right to correct him. His future wife will thank you for that! You might have tried echoing what he said, because sometimes they just aren't listening to themselves when they talk!

    Peace and Laughter,

  13. Cristina, I laughed out loud at your wonderful suggestion. I think such an exercise would be helpful for ourselves to, to re-read the list during those 'blah' moments when we wonder whether our lives amount to much.

  14. Ahhhh human nature. Something I struggle with in ministry and in my working week.

    Thanks for your honest insights that encourage and inspire :)

  15. Hi Narelle,
    I'm convinced that's one nobody can escape from time to time.


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