What is seldom practiced daily, though crucial to the fabric of healthy relationships, whether platonic or romantic, is gratitude. For those who may not know what gratitude is, gratitude is the act of being thankful. Someone who is grateful is ready to express appreciation for whomever, or whatever, acted in a kind or beneficial way towards them.
Gratitude may already seem prevalent in today’s world. It seems that gratitude is explicitly shown for easy and small things in our lives. These include materialistic gifts and strangers’ random acts of kindness, to name a few. Gratitude, to any degree, to any extent and to whomever, is always a positive thing, and yet the people we should be most grateful towards are often brushed aside.
These are mainly our family and closest friends. These are the people who habitually demonstrate acts of kindness towards us as a second nature. With time, their generosity and benevolence are slowly reduced to our baseline expectations of them; we feel less grateful because we are used to their kind actions. Therefore we believe these actions to be something they owe us or at least a behaviour we expect from them. We tend to forget that gratitude is in order because their actions derive from their goodness. What was once an act of kindness worthy of gratitude becomes part of our expectations of them, and when they don’t act in the way that we expect them to, we think that they are mistreating us or something in the relationship has gone sour. In reality, there are few times when our friends or family owe us any ounce of kindness. Gratitude and kindness, of course, vitalizes the life of a relationship, but it is not a requirement. This is something that we need to remember.
The people who love and care for us have no responsibility to act the way that they do. If we can internalize that notion, truly, then we will find it easier and logical to express gratitude towards them. We tend to say ‘thank you’ when a stranger holds the door for us because we don’t expect the stranger to act kindly towards us. The stranger has no ties to us, they have no responsibility to treat us kindly. The same goes for our loved ones. They treat us kindly because they want to, not because they have to. On account of that, they deserve not only to have reciprocated kindness, but also to have that kindness reciprocated with gratitude.
So, what can we do to become more grateful to the people around us? We can start off by remembering that no one, not even our loved ones, owe us any type of behaviour. We must remember that kindness is something done solely through personal volition. Second, we can try to think of periodic and daily actions to be grateful for. Write them down, express them to your loved ones. Whatever method, whatever means, make sure to get it all out. Soon, day by day, we can become more appreciative to the people that matter most.
Oh, and be grateful for yourself too.