Waiting for Gratitude

sundial_specialists8It’s extremely easy to develop an unhealthy obsession with gratitude (yes, there are healthy obsessions, too!), where we expect to be thanked for every good deed we do, and can’t seem to move on with our lives when others don’t express their appreciation of our works.

We desperately seek an answer to the moral riddle:

If a good deed is done, and no one expresses gratitude for it, is it still a good deed?

And lean towards the view that it’s only a good deed when gratitude is expressed. Otherwise, it’s just a deed.

Therefore, to bring meaning to our lives and to sprinkle moral goodness on our actions, we wait for gratitude.

And wait some more.

And, you guessed it… Wait even more.

At times we drop hints: “I vacuumed the house when you were out.”

Other times we ask questions: “Did you notice the house is vacuumed?”

And desperate times call for desperate measures: “I know I did a bad job at vacuuming the house. I’m terrible at it. But I thought you might be happy to come home to a clean house.”

When we don’t receive the gratitude we expect, we lose motivation for doing more good deeds. It just doesn’t seem worth it. After all, it’s not a good deed without gratitude, right?

We fail to come to terms with 3 important facts that pave the way for joyous living:

  1. People aren’t good at expressing gratitude: Even when people are moved to tears by your kindness and generosity, they may not know how to express their gratitude. At times, the more appreciative someone is, the less likely they are to express their appreciation, simply because they don’t know how to. How do you thank someone who saved your son from a burning building? I don’t know, either.
  2. Different people express gratitude differently: Even if people are comfortable with expressing gratitude, it might not be in the way you expect them to. Just because you received an email thanking you for your efforts and not a bouquet of flowers doesn’t mean that your help isn’t appreciated. It might just mean that others don’t express gratitude the way you would.
  3. Good deeds are good, even if they’re not appreciated: Using gratitude as your sole motivational trigger is unhealthy. Why? For starters, see Fact #1 above. Another reason why depending on gratitude for motivation is unhealthy is that good deeds are an extension of your own values, not how others perceive – or appreciate – your actions. Cynical people often question the intentions of those who find joy in helping others. Does that mean you should question and doubt your own intentions just because others don’t expect to meet people that have goodwill towards fellow human beings? Of course not. And it shouldn’t deter you from the good work you can do in the world.

It’s better not to expect gratitude than to base your life on receiving it. By appreciating your own actions and being aware of the values you are living by, you can fuel your inner drive to make the world a ¬†better place.

Don’t wait for permission or approval to do good.

Be good because YOU deserve to be.

Photo credit: specialists8


The Gold-Plated Rule

The Golden Rule is an ethical code that transcends cultural and religious boundaries. It appears in the teachings of the world’s religions and acts as a moral compass for us to navigate the course we take through our daily decisions.

The most popular form of the Golden Rule is:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
~ Jesus Christ

There are many benefits to living by the Golden Rule, which I can’t recount in a single blog post. But I would like to highlight 3 lessons from the Golden Rule:

1- The Two Sides of Social Interactions

There is a huge difference between mocking someone and being mocked by someone. You may enjoy mocking others, but don’t appreciate being mocked. You may enjoy hurting others, but don’t enjoy getting hurt. The Golden Rule asks us to empathize with the person on the other side of the interaction: If we do not appreciate being treated in the same way we treat them, then we shouldn’t treat them that way.

Whenever we interact with others, we should consider both sides of the interaction, and not treat others in a way we wouldn’t like to be treated.

2- Mutual Happiness

The Golden Rule expects us to respect and value our own happiness, as well as the happiness of others. Since we appreciate it when others contribute to our happiness, we should enjoy contributing to theirs. It is not a matter of either I’m happy, or others are happy. We can work together so that everyone is happy.

3- Setting an Example

The way you treat others sets an example to others on how they should treat you. Therefore, rather than expect others to change, you should take responsibility for your own conduct, and set a positive example for others to follow, in how they deal with you, and how they deal with others. This is a powerful contribution we can make to society: When we work on our own conduct, we encourage others to work on theirs.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Sadly, though, the Golden Rule isn’t the moral code we’re living by. Instead, we’re living by a rule that appears golden, but isn’t.

What we’re living by is the Gold-Plated Rule.

“Do unto others as they do unto you.”
~ The Gold-Plated Rule

Instead of considering how others should behave, and setting an example for them to follow, we use the example they already set for us!

If people treat us with disrespect, then we treat them with disrespect.

We react according to their behavior, rather than mindfully living according to our own principles and values.

Rather than challenge the status quo, we conform and contribute to it!

Rather than bring about positive change, we help entrench negative traits!

This is justified in the name of fairness.

If we are mistreated, it’s only fair that we respond in kind. And, of course, we want to be fair, don’t we?

In the name of morality we justify immorality.

We value karma and relish the thought of divine retribution, because we want to see others suffer in the same way we suffered.

The Gold-Plated Rule steers us towards the lowest common denominator in human relationships.

A single act can spread like wildfire in a community, destroying relationships and inflaming bad intentions and evil schemes for retaliation.

The Gold-Plated Rule doesn’t help individuals – and societies – prosper. It helps them self-destruct.

It’s important for us to consciously commit to living by the Golden Rule, and to completely abandon the Gold-Plated Rule.