A friend of mine recently shared she had been asked to conduct training in "Civility." Seems like this is the new “thing” every organization needs to emphasize and teach. We both chuckled because we know civility, like all the great truths and behaviors in life, isn’t taught, but instead caught, and it originates in a thankful heart. The heart is the wellspring where fountains of gratitude arise.
When we are not thankful for those whose opinions differ from ours; we criticize. When we don’t value those different than ourselves; we ostracize. When we aren’t respectful of other’s values, we marginalize. Ingratitude is at the root of arrogance, hatred, and rudeness. We don’t have a problem with our words; we have a problem with our hearts. Thanklessness is a fatal a character malformation, yet it runs rampant in our society and is even encouraged and celebrated. Until this trend is called out for what it is, and hearts get softer and not harder, there can be no civility.
No amount of external training can fix an internal issue. At the root of everything that ails humanity is a deep-rooted ungratefulness that we know more and deserve more at the expense of others. The tyranny of individuality is poisoning the fountainhead of thanksgiving. At the core of all this incivility, is the focus on what I don’t have versus what I do have; and the false assumption that for me to get mine, I must take away from someone else. Also at the core is this assumption that our opinion and values supersede those who differ from us aka ideology.
Until we learn the fundamental behavior of being thankful, we can't engage as a human collective. There are things that humans do better than animals. One of them is express gratitude. When we lose our words of praise and willingness to show appreciation, it indeed becomes survival of the fittest as the collective tears itself apart.
This Thanksgiving it’s important we ask ourselves, are we thankful for the privilege of being thankful? How much of our day is spent giving thanks versus giving criticism? Are we lamenting a glass half empty, or do we give praise for the fact that we have a glass with anything in it? Do we appreciate or depreciate with our beliefs, thoughts, and actions?
My father used to share this prayer before our meals:
“Lord, we thank you for our food, but if we had no food we would want to thank you just the same because we're not thankful just for what you give us but thankful, most of all, for the privilege of learning to be thankful.”
For many years I had a difficult time processing what he meant. But now I am beginning to realize that we are to give thanks in and for all things. Yes, even in the turmoil and things I disagree with because the only thing that matters, in the end, is a grateful heart and the privilege of learning to be thankful.