Thursday, April 21, 2011

Appreciation is a protection

Saying my son hates the dentist is an understatement. After eight cavities, he knows what going to the dentist involves. We usually tell him the morning of his appointment. This will be followed by crying and moaning, until the dreaded event arrives. When it’s all over and the dentist gives him a wink with the words, “No cavities,” he will sigh and say, “That wasn’t so bad.” Yet I know that in another six months we will repeat the same routine.

His fear of the dentist does motivate him to do one thing: he will spend an exorbitant amount of time brushing his teeth each evening. He will floss, use a special mouthwash, and take as many preventative measures as he can to avoid the agony of another cavity.

In any relationship, appreciation is the preventative care. In order to have a good marriage, you must have two appreciators; two people who are indebted to each other, who overflow with gratitude, who never forget to acknowledge the other person’s efforts. Appreciation can be self-centered. It’s the realization that your life would not be the same without this amazing person. But at the same time it requires you to take the focus off yourself and put it on someone else. It’s not assuming that this person knows how you feel, it’s expressing it. Appreciation is treating a person with dignity: bestowing honor, giving worth, adding to their self-respect.

Why is this one preventative measure so hard for people to perform? One reason is that appreciation requires time and effort. It’s like cooking a good pot of chili: the more you let it simmer, the better it taste. If we slow down and reflect on our lives, the better the appreciation will be. It‘s easy to be rushed, overwhelmed and annoyed. This leads to complaining, fault-finding and minimizing. A second reason is that some people have never been appreciated. They have never heard the words, “I am proud of you,” “Thank you for being a part of my life,” “You are an amazing person.” So to them, showing appreciation feels like getting their teeth pulled. You have to tug and wrench on them before they will show an ounce of gratitude.

I have witnessed a lack of appreciation, and it can be as painful to watch as seeing my son get a cavity filled. I have seen someone’s hard work go unnoticed. I’ve observed efforts go unrewarded. Failure to appreciate is like the sweet, syrupy foods that get stuck in your teeth, slowly starting the decay, forming holes in a relationship. Appreciation is the toothbrush and toothpaste. It is the preventative measure that you perform every day, to keep your loved ones healthy and happy. In any relationship, appreciation is a clinically proven cavity protector.

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