My friend Sheila paid me the most lovely compliment a couple of weeks ago. She told me that I was really, really good at Appreciation. I’ve been basking in that, thinking about it ever since.
It truly meant the world to me when she said that because, for me, appreciation is very intentional. I do it on purpose.
I’m happy to say that over time it has become almost second nature; I don’t have to remind myself so much, it’s fairly effortless. But appreciation started out as a deliberate discipline, and regular exercise has strengthened those muscles. When Sheila complimented me, it was like someone saying, “You look great! Have you been working out?”
I think I need to credit another friend, Jane, for being the one who brought to my attention several years ago the difference between Appreciation and Gratitude. That’s a subtle distinction, there’s certainly overlap, and a lot of people use the words synonymously. But the way I usually think about it is: Gratitude is something I feel; Appreciation is something I express.
Appreciation is inclusive and inviting. Appreciation shares itself. You might describe it as Gratitude in motion — vibrant, participatory, and creative.
And it comes back! It comes back so strong and beautiful it makes my eyes water.
From time to time, I like to send out cards that aren’t tied to any specific occasion, for no particular reason other than to express appreciation for someone. I mailed such a card to a buddy last month. When he received it, he called to tell me that it had totally made his day — his rough day had been turned into a sweet day by a few nice words appearing unexpectedly in his mailbox. The afternoon I heard from him, I myself had been having a pretty crummy day, which then got transformed into a joyful one by his appreciation. That could back and forth forever, right?
Stephen Covey says, “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival — to be understood, to be validated, to be appreciated.”
I’m not sure that I would have described this as a matter of survival, but, heck, that may not be an overstatement. There’s no doubt that it makes an enormous difference — in a day, in a life — to feel seen and heard, to be validated as person who matters, to know that our being is important to someone else.
And in community — when we get into a groove of appreciation and acknowledgment together, a whole bunch of us… Yowza! Just think of the ways we can light each other up, calling forth all our best selves. That sounds like freedom and celebration. That sounds almost like Heaven.[It seems like every other week I stumble upon a different idea and think: “OMG! That’s the reason to do spiritual community! Finally, I get that that’s the entire point!” This is one of those.]
I’d like to offer a very simple spiritual practice:
- Think of someone you love or admire — a real person in your life.
- Now, think of three things that you appreciate about this person — maybe things they’ve done, or wonderful qualities they embody especially well, or perhaps something about which they’re passionate or to which they’re really committed…
- Now TELL THEM. Tell them this week. You can send a text or email right now, or call them on the phone, or put a note in the mail. (In my experience, notes in the mail always land in an extra special way).
- BONUS ASSIGNMENT — Do this same exercise thinking about someone with whom you’re having a hard time, maybe even someone that you don’t like all that much…
It occurs to me that adding this bonus assignment means that if any of us receive sweet calls or notes this week, we won’t know if we’re in the “much-admired” or the “harder-to-love” categories.
But I think that’s okay. Maybe that’s the point — to start dissolving some of those differences and separations… I mean, we’re all rock stars and we’re all pains in somebody’s ass. We deserve appreciation and love either way.
Have a perfectly gorgeous week, Honeybunches. Tune in for music and message this weekend at BOSQUECSL.ORG and/or VIMEO.COM/BOSQUECSL. New content every Saturday by 6:00pm, and available at your convenience, on-demand, forever after.
©2021 Drew Groves