I’m writing a piece for Shambhala Sun, and just went to their site to look something up in their archives, and got fantastically distracted by this two-part piece on the Lessons of Gratitude by the monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
If you’ve studied mindfulness training for a minute, you know being distracted is a no-no (but inevitable) but aside from *that, consider this excerpt:
“Training in gratitude shows how powerful perception can be, for it requires developing a particular set of perceptions about life and the world. If you perceive help as demeaning, then gratitude itself feels demeaning; but if you perceive help as an expression of trust—the other person wouldn’t want to help you unless he or she felt you would use the help well—then gratitude feels ennobling, an aid to self-esteem. Similarly, if you perceive life as a competition, it’s hard to trust the motives of those who help you, and you resent the need to repay their help as a gratuitous burden. If, however, you perceive that the goodness in life is the result of cooperation, then the give and take of kindness and gratitude become a much more pleasant exchange.”
These articles helped me to better understand and articulate why it always feels uncomfortable when someone says, “I owe you” when you do something kind or nice for them. Reciprocity and the expectation of it isn’t the point of a kindness; in fact, it’s counter to the deeper meaning of it.
Now, back to work….