Over the past several years I have become keenly aware of what the opposite of gratitude is. That is, taking things for granted. We all do it. As a practical matter, we cannot possibly feel or express gratitude for everything we have and all the things we do. The roads we drive on, the utilities we enjoy, the fact that we have elbows (imagine your life without them!) are all benefits we enjoy and we rarely stop to consider our gratitude for them and how they affect our lives. We take them for granted.
The question is what else do we take for granted? We each have to decide that for ourselves. I know what they are, or were for me: people and abilities.
Losing some physical abilities has caused me to savor the ones I have. I used to jog a 5K almost daily and do a 20 mile jog on the weekend. Now, I don’t walk well and need to use a walker or wheelchair everywhere I go. Jogging was something I loved to do and was an ability that I took for granted. Today, I am grateful for all the physical abilities I do have and don’t take them for granted.
My life, my entire world is filled with incredible people. Some are constants, like my family and friends. Others come and go. Today, I am much better at feeling and expressing my gratitude to and for them and the difference they make in my life. In fact, I have learned that a key to successful relationships is the ability to experience and express gratitude.
We take money, the ability to travel, peace and freedom, technology and so much more for granted and it is easy to do. All of these privileges and so many more have become ordinary, customary and life as we know it. The cost of taking it all for granted is that we lose our appreciation, thereby diminishing their value. This is true for privileges and people too.
We have all heard someone say “I feel like he/she takes me for granted.” That seems to be the universal experience of relationships that are in trouble. This is true at home and at work. Where gratitude is present, being taken for granted is not.
I have been married for 28 years and am more in love with my wife today than I was on the day we married. Is our life more difficult today? Yes, in some ways. Do I take her for granted? Probably. But that pales in comparison to the gratitude I feel and express to her every single day…..and do you know what? She expresses it towards me too. Our ability to feel and express gratitude toward one another has taken our marriage to a new place, one that we may not have found without the lessons we have learned about gratitude.
Gratitude requires two things of us. We have to feel it and be able to express it. Unexpressed gratitude towards the people who matter in our lives is useless. Taking things for granted requires nothing from us, but the cost of doing nothing may be more than we realize.
Do the opposite of taking things for granted. Experience and express gratitude and enhance the value of every privilege and person you value. You, and the people who matter to you, will be glad you did.
Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.