There are some days when Iíve just about had it. Recently, when baby-sitting a friendís two preschoolers, I realized how much one can forget in the six short years since both of my girls have been out of diapers. On that day, the three-year-old got into the paints when I wasnít looking. I discovered him sitting atop the kitchen table, making interesting designs on his clothes. After taking one look at him, I decided he was too far gone to interfere with now. I just gave him some paper and figured at least this would keep him busy for a while. And it did. It kept him so busy he didnít realize when he had to pee. My table got the worst of it.
But even my days with my own children can be disheartening. I really enjoy cooking, and sometimes I make these sumptuous meals, lay out the silver, sit down with excitement, and watch the kidsí faces drop. Even though they know itís definitely not in their best interests to voice any complaints, they sit, dejected, and suffer in silence as they look at all the yucky green stuff I sprinkled on the chicken. I want to enjoy the meal, but the whole atmosphere is ruined. Donít they see what I went through for them?
Some of us have jobs that make us feel that way, too. If we work at a place where morale is lower than a double-jointed limbo dancer, everybody is grumpy.
We Need Encouragement
The problem, whether at our jobs or at home, is not necessarily that the work we do is miserable, or that the job is too hard. Itís that nobody appreciates our efforts. Attention only comes our way when something goes wrong.
Living that kind of life, with no positive feedback, can be like living a slow death. Even when we have pursued a life which we feel God has called us toóa career we feel proud of, a family weíre raising that we love, a business weíre startingóthat inner sense of motivation, satisfaction or vocation only takes you so far. We are social beings, and we're made to need positive human interaction.
Thatís what poisons so many marriages, and causes employers to lose the best people. These bad feelings, even if they donít stem from huge issues, can start to add up as, brick by brick, we build up walls between us. Soon there doesnít seem anything left to hold us together.
Acknowledge What Other People Do
How can we stop this impending death? My grandfather, after every meal, would always smile and thank my grandmother. ďMother,Ē he would say, ďthat was wonderful,Ē whether it was or not. He was acknowledging the effort and the love that she put into that meal. When we donít acknowledge that love, too often it flickers out.
Donít Wait for Them to Make That First Step
Much as we may know this kind of appreciation is vital, though, when weíre feeling unappreciated, itís really hard to appreciate anybody else. Weíre each waiting for the other person to thank us, before it even occurs to us to acknowledge them. Itís strange how weíre often the most critical with those weíre the closest to. We can be kind to strangers, but are we kind to those who really matter? And when our lives feel like endless to-do lists, taking time to encourage someone seems overwhelming. Why should they need it? Iím keeping up with all my work without anybody fawning all over me. Why should I fawn all over anybody else?
Thatís a dangerous, though understandable, attitude. Many of us are tired. After that day with four kids, I certainly was. But think about those around you. Why not break through that wall today, before it becomes too high to climb over? You may think youíre tired now, but donít sacrifice the people who comprise your support system. Take my advice: whether youíre at home or at work, stop reading, smile at the person nearest you, and say thank you for something. Youíll be tearing down bricks, and thatís ever so much better than piling them up.
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Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books specializing in marriage and household organization. She blogs at http://tolovehonorandvacuum.blogspot.com.
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