Is Your Attitude Full of Gratitude?
Gratitude is quite different from feeling you are indebted to another, when they been helpful for you, and the results are pleasing. Derived from the Latin word gratus, meaning “thankful, pleasing,” gratitude does not compel you to repay the “debt” of kindness shown by another.
Rather, an attitude full of gratitude urges you to “pay it forward”, by being helpful to others; by helping them get results in their lives which are pleasing to them.
Thankfulness goes hand-in-hand with gratitude.
When you have received help from a friend or even a stranger which is a kindness, an attitude of thankfulness is totally appropriate. Tell them how grateful you are. Express your gratitude by praising them and their action to others.
If one of your children goes “above and beyond,” make sure you tell them how grateful you are, by praising them and their action. It is not necessary to reward them with more than genuine praise.
True gratitude, thankfulness, does not create a sense of debt which has to be repaid with monetary rewards, because praise which is earned and acknowledged is reward enough.
Create a sense of “paying it forward” in our children.
It’s important children learn from an early age they will not receive a reward of material benefits every time we feel grateful for something they have done. Whether it is for us, or for someone else. You can never spoil a child with too much praise, provided it is earned. Let them know how proud you are of them, and how much you appreciate seeing their kindness for others.
Teach them the joy of receiving thanks, and knowing they have enhanced the life of someone else. In time, knowing that becomes enough.
Indebtedness breaks the flow of kindness
If your children expect a reward every time they show a kindness to you, or to someone else, the sense of indebtedness they create breaks the flow of kindness. Rather than their spirit of helpfulness being able to flow forward, it is turned 180c and back to them.
Repeat it often enough, and their spirit of kindness will wither away. Because they are not seeing the true reward of gratefulness. If they believe their kindness invokes a sense of indebtedness to them, which needs to be repaid, in time it will cause discontent.
They may not deem their rewards as “enough.” Jealousy between siblings will create friction and competitiveness for the rewards.
Friction eventually brings even the fastest spinning top to a wobble and a stop. By adopting a “pay it forward” attitude, and accepting thankfulness for their kindness, they can instead create a “perpetual motion” attitude of kindness.
Learning to show gratitude takes attitude.
When we receive a kindness, often our first instinct is to want to repay it. Quickly. Because we don’t always understand the difference between gratitude and indebtedness.
But there are two meanings for indebtedness:
- owing money (which is obvious when you incur a financial debt)
- owing gratitude (which is when you owe THANKS)
The opposite of being “indebted” means “ungrateful”, “unappreciative”, “thankless”.
So, in truth, expressing GRATITUDE is what releases us from INDEBTEDNESS, when we have been shown a kindness.
This is the key to developing an ATTITUDE of KINDNESS. Paying our gratitude forward, with no expectation of any reward except THANKS is what ensures we do not labour under a false sense of obligation.
Our First Step Is To Teach Ourselves How To Accept Kindness Without Feeling Indebted.
It takes a change in attitude to develop an ongoing sense of gratitude without feeling in debt to another. Expressing your thanks, with heartfelt sincerity is a good start.
Let someone else buy your coffee, without saying “the next one is on me”. Offer to buy a suspended coffee for someone who can’t afford one. Accept with a gracious attitude, and pay it forward.
When We Are Grateful Every Day, How and To Whom Do We Ascribe Our Gratitude?
Today, I underwent two difficult medical procedures, and was fortunate enough to be told I have no signs of cancer, or internal bleeding, or stomach ulcers. (Not that I suspected I did, but my Dr. is thorough, if nothing else.) I wrote a public note of gratitude for the medical staff, who were excellent. I did not feel indebted to them, because there was no way I could repay their kindness.
Out of that, my blog today on gratitude, indebtedness, and kindness was crystallized, particularly with a view to teaching children to understand and accept gratitude itself is the reward.
I simply had to say, publicly, “thank you, I am grateful” to them and to others. And decide to pay that kindness forward.
When I see my GP, I will tell her I am grateful that she insisted I have the tests done, because there could have been a different prognosis. I am not indebted to her, because my gratitude will release me. She showed me a kindness, when she refused to allow me to defer or avoid the tests. I will pay that kindness forward, by encouraging my friends to ensure they, too, have good health tests done and follow their Dr’s advice.
Can We Free Our Children and Teach Them To Be Kind?
When we express gratitude for the everyday things in our life, whom do we thank? When we say “I am grateful for my home, my life, my family, and friends, and for all the good things in my life” to whom are we giving thanks?
Some will say “God”, whatever they conceive him to be. Some will say “the Universe”. Others will have no firm idea who should be receiving this heartfelt gratitude.
In truth, when we acknowledge how grateful we are, on a daily basis, for our lives and family, we do not necessarily have to ascribe that gratitude, that release from any sense of indebtedness, to an individual or an entity – unless there a specific reason to do so.
Writing down five, or ten, or fifteen reasons to feel grateful every day is a laudable exercise. Because gratitude is how we release ourselves from indebtedness, and free ourselves to practice kindness.
In the words of the song by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Teach Your Children Well
Above all: love them with an open heart.
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