by Kevin Burton
When I determined to write about appreciation I turned to the dictionary for help, but you wouldn’t have to.
Appreciation is like that key spice in your favorite stew. If it’s there it fills everything it touches with a flavor that keeps you coming back for more. If it is missing, your meal is flat, bland.
Actually in real life it’s a little worse than that isn’t it?
You may be thinking of someone, a family member, a co-worker. You do something for the person, give something to them, and they expect it don’t appreciate it.
That taste is worse than just bland. It
does not make you want to come back for more.
This is the first part of what I intend as a who-knows-how-many-part series on my ABCs. Looking at my kindergarten graduation diploma made me think of this series (Let’s See If I Really Know My ABCs, Oct. 30).
Given the limited experience of five-year-olds, schools tend to teach the alphabet by tying the letters to agreeable and familiar images such as apple, ball, cat, dog and so forth.
But what words would I use to represent the letters now that I have a little bit more experience? What are the elements that help one navigate life in an imperfect world?
Here we are right between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Thanksgiving is an American holiday to pause to give thanks to God for the things He has provided for us. At Christmas, the birth of Jesus is celebrated most often by a gift exchange. What better time to talk about appreciation?
OK, here’s what I got from the dictionary.
To appreciate is to “grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of,” “value or admire highly,” “judge with heightened perception or understanding: be fully aware of,” or “recognize with gratitude,” according to Merriam Webster.
It’s the latter meaning we have talked about so far. But all of them are useful in moving from kindergarten to adulthood.
Here’s Tony Schwartz, writing in the Harvard Business Review about appreciation in the workplace.
“The single highest driver of engagement, according to a worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson, is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their wellbeing. Less than 40 percent of workers felt so engaged.”
“Feeling genuinely appreciated lifts people up. At the most basic level, it makes us feel safe, which is what frees us to do our best work. It’s also energizing. When our value feels at risk, as it so often does, that worry becomes preoccupying, which drains and diverts our energy from creating value.”
Schwartz was writing about management in an office setting. It’s not difficult to apply his words to other interpersonal situations.
We hope all our family relationships are ones we enjoy. For most of us, if we’re honest, there are some family relationships that we manage rather than enjoy. In my experience, the relationships that aren’t the best have gone wrong because of selfishness and lack of appreciation.
You can’t climb into someone else’s skin and determine whether they truly appreciate you or what you do. You also can’t shake the ones who are not appreciative, though that may be the first thing that comes to mind.
The best thing you can do is not be that person. You are in charge of you. You can be grateful and you can express appreciation.
The Christmas gifts you receive will add value to your life. But don’t overlook the time and effort (not to mention money) put in by somebody to get you that gift.
Once in a while I sit still in a chair, scan as far as I can with my eyes without turning my head and just drink in all the things that I have. From there I consider how I got them, who gave them to me and how blessed I am to have that person and their gifts in my life.
It’s an interesting exercise. Try it if you’re feeling down or stressed. It always helps me gain perspective.
God loves to give to His people, but He owes us nothing. I need to show and tell Him that I appreciate all He has done for me. On the human level too, appreciation is a good tool for your tool kit.