“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
How do you feel if you have really worked hard on something, and nobody acknowledges it, leave alone appreciates you for the service? Then someone comes along and recognizes what you have done and admires your sincerity. At that moment, what’s the feeling inside you? Do you feel valued, encouraged, worthy, and inspired to serve more?
This just reveals how powerful appreciation is. You could make an enormous investment in a relationship by simply offering encouraging words. And it costs you nothing. And the gains are tremendous- heart felt blessings of the other person. If we could resolve to genuinely appreciate and thank at least five people every day, for what they are doing, and for who they are, you’d be amazed by the blessings that you earn.
This is different from flattery, which is simply an insincere technique to manipulate others. Appreciation on the other hand is sincere; it’s a universal principle that spreads goodness and love, within and without. Soon we’d realize that gratitude and appreciation is the best gift we give not to others, but to ourselves. Studies have shown that the greatest emotional need of human beings is to feel appreciated. And paradoxically, when we offer this gift to others, we receive abundantly from the universe. Unlike money, which if you give away you get poorer, giving appreciation makes you emotionally as rich as the person receiving your thanks.
I learnt this lesson recently when after an unpleasant management meeting I was travelling in a taxi. I was disturbed in the mind, and meanwhile the ride, which usually takes a half hour, took longer. I was irritated by the events in the meeting, and also angry at few people. I tried to relax, but found it difficult, as my mind, agitated by the preceding events, grumbled on.
In my disturbed state, I noticed the roads were overcrowded with cars blaring their horns, and pedestrians rushing on the roads, in utter disregard to traffic rules. However my driver was sensitive to not honk at other vehicles. I was surprised to see my cabbie patient with the traffic. After we reached the destination, I paused to thank him for his considerate driving. I also confessed I was disturbed, and his quiet tolerance of other vehicles helped me reorganize myself mentally. He felt elated; he profusely thanked me for appreciating him, and then made a candid confession. When he started the car, he had seen me from his rear view mirror, and realized I was piqued at something. He consciously chose to please me, and he was glad it helped me. I felt touched, and again thanked him. Soon we parted, never to meet again.
That very instant I felt all my frustrations evaporate. Offering genuine appreciation and receiving kindness had a magical effect on my consciousness. The rest of the day passed on smoothly as other services engulfed my mind.
That evening as I reflected on the day’s events, a realization dawned upon me. If an occasional positive exchange with a stranger made me so happy, what incredible treasure awaits me if I make appreciation a regular practise with people who matter to me? If we allow thankfulness to be a one off experience, our lives won’t change much because the tempest of negativity and cynicism, which is a reality of this world, would soon swallow us. We need to consistently choose to appreciate, and only then we’ll have control over our lives. A simple example; you may be really keen to get something, but do you think you’d be happy if you owned it. Probably yes, but to sustain your happiness you’d have to grow beyond possessing it; it’s only when we can appreciate what we have, rather than simply obtain it, that we actually own that thing.
I can hear your protest, “I always appreciate others, but no one encourages me. I am only giving; I too need love” It’s true that sometimes what we receive from others could be the opposite of what we give in this world. However if our spiritual practises are strong, then a lack of appreciation from this world is a temporary trial. And to pass this exam we need to understand that appreciation is not an isolated practise. We’ve to integrate it with patience and fortitude; patience to hold on till God reciprocates, and heroic courage to face criticism or lack of reciprocation from others.
But everything will soon fall in place; the world is an echo, and we eventually get back what we give.