ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

Excerpt from “Relationships That Work: The Power of Conscious Living”

By David B. Wolf

Suppose we hear comments from another person about ourselves. Even if these comments seem completely inaccurate to us, we can appreciate the value in knowing that someone, perhaps representing many others, perceives us in that way. With such information we can adjust our presentation (which is different than compromising our genuineness) so that the perception people have of us is consistent with what is inside us. If the feedback we hear does strike a chord, perhaps causing us to react, then that may be an indication of an area for productive introspection. Even if the delivery of the feedback was not as caring and compassionate as we might have preferred, and even if we suspect that the comments significantly reflect on the other person’s issues, still we can use the observations for our own self-realization.

Accepting constructive feedback with an appreciative spirit, we are grateful that this person cared enough about us to be honest. Similarly, by our willingness to share honestly with people in our life, we give them the opportunity to respond honestly to us, to who we actually are. Otherwise, relationships degenerate to a pretentious exchange designed to maintain shallow, false facades, at the expense of vitality and the spiritual fulfillment that results from genuine reciprocation.

There also exists directly appreciative feedback, where we share with each other about qualities and behaviors that inspire and move us. In sharing appreciative comments it is especially enriching to be concrete, to specifically state what it is about the other person that we value and admire. For example, to say to someone, “You taught a good class” is not particularly concrete. In fact, it could be considered to be a judgment. Although it may be regarded as a positive judgment, it still may be a barrier to communication—just as much as a negative judgment is. This sort of compliment does not provide the receiver with as full an experience and understanding of thankfulness as a statement such as: “When you spoke about and demonstrated empathy, and about people not caring what we know till they know that we care, and about the power of completely entering the world of another person, I sensed worlds of possibilities open up for me, and felt so hopeful and grateful to be alive. I teach high school students, and this workshop has provided me so many exciting tools and principles to enhance my service to my students.” With such a statement the receiver clearly knows what he did that was appreciated, and how the person felt as a result.

Expressing appreciation in sattva guna means that our intention is to celebrate the life-enriching qualities of others, with no motive to manipulate or coerce, or to fulfill some personal agenda. Such sattvic gratitude is a cornerstone of spiritual life. Research has demonstrated that an attitude of gratitude is a key element of a fulfilled life … Practicing gratitude, intentionally being thankful, transforms how we view and experience the world. It infuses us with power to convert our most challenging times into sources of meaning and inspiration. Consciously being grateful and expressing thankfulness connects us moment-to-moment with the spiritual self’s sense of wonder and discovery. In giving appreciation we responsibly participate in the celebration and experience of life.

Receiving appreciation is also a wonderful opportunity to give to people. It is a chance to recognize that we contribute to joy and well-being, that we can be an instrument for the supreme spirit to nurture the lives of others. To receive gratitude in a sattvic manner means that we avoid snares such as feeling superior and arrogant, or denying that we are deserving (which deprives others of the fulfillment of having their appreciation gracefully received).

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