Don’t you always feel good when others notice something you have done and they are truly appreciative? But, of course, what you have done is something positive and good for those appreciating you. What happens when we make a mistake? –seldom does one appreciate the less positive things we do. That is because we make appreciation of others conditional on what they do, and we even expect that of ourselves.
On the other hand, different wisdom traditions that have evolved over the past 3,000 years teach that we can appreciate everything – the notion of giving thanks in all situations and for everything we have and don’t have. That seems almost impossible, also, because we are also conditional with our appreciation –for everything – the good, bad, and ugly? It is difficult. We appreciate light because we understand darkness. We appreciate acts that are life-giving even more when we understand the negative impact of life-taking acts.
Many wisdom teachers say being thankful for everything brings happiness. That would mean that our happiness is not conditional. In our consumer culture, we are happy when we have a great job, house, car, spouse, and children. We make our happiness conditional as well. If we can be thankful for what we have and don’t have, we can truly be happy.
Appreciating ourselves and others at school, work or play can build awesome relationships, learning and work environments, and certainly makes life more joyful. Many of my students at the Longview campus who move into an unconditional appreciation begin to care, listen, and understand more deeply. They are able to be more compassionate of themselves and others.
Self approval will bring you happiness; then you give up finding happiness through the approval from others.
Marvin Aaron is the Associate Dean of Student Development, Metropolitan Community College-Longview, a member of Lee’s Summit CARES and a Lee’s Summit resident.