Greed, Selfishness and Entitlement
As I slowly approach the conclusion of my online 30-Day Gratitude Challenge, I realise that this is something I intend to do regularly, although I'll be writing in my notebook.
I am a grateful person by nature, and won't hold back when it comes to praise. I don't do flattery either. Dale Carnegie once wrote, "Don't be afraid of enemies who attack you. Be afraid of the friends who flatter you." Be sincere when you practice gratitude, fake compliments are as bad as not being grateful. Most people can tell a difference between what's coming from the heart, and what's being said out of duty.
I also realise how easy it can be for humans to become too complacent, and stifle the concept of gratitude. Briefly touched on how we often take people who provide services for granted, when they could do with a few encouraging words from customers. However, usually, we take those close to us for granted. For some, being on the receiving end makes them feel entitled.
I am lucky enough to have come across and know a few people whom I would describe as natural givers. They derive nothing but joy out of giving. They don't give because they will be expecting something in return, that's who they are, period. These are the kind of people who radiate sunshine, no matter what they go through, they give their best. When they cry, they do it away from everybody else, and one would never know that they've got challenges just by merely looking at them. They are truly blessed.
Gratitude: A Learned Concept
However, I've noticed that the more they give, the more they are taken for granted. You see, gratitude is a learned concept, and some people still have a lot of learning to do. I remember when my kids were still very young, I had to teach them to say, "thank you," until it became second nature. A little side-track, about two weeks ago, I overheard the siblings squabble over something, nothing serious, but there was an exchange of words. My daughter would say whatever she wanted to say, and if she didn't hear little brother properly (they were in separate rooms) she'd say, "pardon?" Of course, I was not too fond of the fact that they were fighting, but I remember listening in, amazed by daughter's classy fight. She still said, "pardon?" even when she was angry. What I'm trying to say is that some things are learned from a very young age.
I often interact with kids in my line of duty and can tell a lot about a child by the way they behave. Of course, we don't judge, and always seek to find the best in every child, we always do. However, I've noticed something compelling that might help us to understand how gratitude works as adults. There are instances when I give away sweets, biscuits or chocolate. Some children are patient and willing to wait for their turn, even if it means they don't get their favourite choice, say from a tin of Celebrations. Some will practically snatch the chocolate off my hands, and can never be trusted with any goodies in the vicinity. They will find a way to serve themselves, even if it means others miss out. No matter how many times you talk about sharing and being considerate, they will repeat the same behaviour whenever the opportunity presents itself. However, on many occasions, I've found myself rewarding the most patient and polite children often. They're always such a pleasure to give anything.
I believe that's how God operates sometimes. When we are obedient, considerate of others and genuinely grateful, He gives us more. Our selfish tendencies often block further blessings. Even the givers will eventually start holding back after a series of being taken for granted. Imagine what would happen if your partner came across someone who showers them with compliments, while you're busy holding back because you feel that it might get to their head? I bet you don't even want to go there. Mother Theresa once said, "There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread." Dish out more compliments and gratitude, it's highly needed more than you could ever imagine.
Ungratefulness Breeds Evil
There is a Shona saying called, "kusatenda huroyi." It translates to, "being ungrateful is as good as witchcraft." In other words, lack of gratitude is not a minor offence, it's evil. I've heard stories of people who stop trying altogether because when they give, they are either stone-walled or criticised for getting the wrong thing. I raise my hand and admit that I don't always fully embrace all the gifts I receive. The truth is, some people are good at giving presents, some struggle, but I never stop being grateful.
Remember, it's not about the price, it's about giving something that someone would appreciate. I've reached a point where buying clothes for my children is sometimes met with resistance, and so I've learnt to sit back and let them choose according to their tastes. Difficult to do if you used to be the chief-stylist, but those days are long gone. Insisting on giving something just because you want it and expect others to be grateful can only lead to resentment. Do we get it wrong from time to time? Oh yes, we will, we're human, and bound to make mistakes. However, giving can only have value if we are considerate, not merely giving out of selfishness.
Be thankful, even if you don't entirely like some gifts. You can always give it to someone, donate to charity, or find someone who truly appreciates a present that you don't particularly like. However, it is the sense of entitlement that blocks further blessings for many. May we always be the kind of people who appreciate those who give without ceasing, and also be the kind of people who give without expecting anything in return.
Tonight, I will take a moment to pray and be thankful for the great people who've given me so much. I hope you too will be grateful to those close to you and be thankful for the little things they do. That's how we mend and strengthen relationships.
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