“I appreciate you.” I heard these three words recently and felt immediately transformed by them. They are surprisingly powerful.
We often say to others the following: “I appreciate that you did this or that for me”. The object of our appreciation is something very specific, definable, and particular. We may feel gratitude for a gesture, a remark, a gift. But how often do we simply say to someone that we appreciate them? That we are thankful for them… in their entirety? Try it. Walk up to someone you appreciate and just tell them so. Tell them, without reference to anything in particular, that you are simply thankful for them. You will make their day.
Many have discovered the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, of taking the time on a regular basis to reflect upon anything and everything for which or whom they are thankful. Social scientists tell us that doing so re-wires our thinking, helps us to see the positive, and increases our awareness. This, the scientists say, will make us more optimistic and happier.
As someone who works closely with a number of companies around issues of corporate culture and organizational transformation, I very frequently see the impact of positive… and negative… cultures on an organization’s performance and sustainability. Some companies become so negative that the cultures are poisonous, toxic and counterproductive. How does this happen? In my experience, there are many reasons including unresolved conflict, poor communication, inconsistent decision-making processes and lack of transparency. This happens in all types of organizations, including within families. The transformation process begins when these behaviors are reversed and when trust is created or restored. But often that’s easier said than done.
I have found that within positive and thriving organizations, leaders and employees often take the time to recognize their wins and successes. And even in those times when the successes are hard fought and rare, the better organizations express this gratitude consistently. As with those who regularly keep a gratitude journal, these organizations see the positive, are more aware of its presence. So, when they see it… they name it, recognize it, and celebrate it.
Within the Catholic Church, we have had reason over the past several years to feel disappointment and to become discouraged. Trust has diminished and so we long for it to be restored.
I recently heard the analogy, attributed to the ancient theologian Origen, that the Catholic Church is much like Noah’s Ark. The ark itself, traveling across treacherous waters, must have been difficult and even dangerous at times. Parts of it must have been dark and disgusting. Yet, said Origen, it remained humanity’s best hope forward. So too the Church.
When we focus on those more difficult parts of our boat, it’s easy to forget the rest including the beauty, the grace, the fellowship and the opportunity to be a community of faith striving together for salvation. On our boat, we have each other, we have support, and we have the sacraments, including the presence of Jesus himself in our midst. We have the light that can’t be hidden under a bushel basket, we have a faith tradition audacious and courageous enough to offer itself as a worthy alternative to a life filled with chasing wealth, comfort and certainty. We understand that like our founder we may be criticized and rejected for this claim, but in our boat we are bold enough to get up after falling and attempt to keep on walking forward. And we remember that when Jesus fully understood his power, his next act was to get onto his hands and knees and wash the feet of those who believed they were to serve him. This instructs and inspires us and in that regard, we are wildly and remarkably unique.
There are the dark and dangerous places on the boat.
But we sail on. Ever toward the light.
And if you have read this far… I appreciate you.