“Mom!! He didn’t say his thank you!” [Eyes blazing, finger pointing, hand on hip, you get the picture.]
From the time they could speak, I drilled my kids with the importance of saying their “thank yous.” So when a classmate didn’t express his appreciation to my then four-year-old son, AJ was duly indignant.
What’s a mom to do? Think quick!
I answered that if we get a “thank you” here on earth, that’ll be all the thanks we get, but if we don’t receive a “thank you” here on earth, God will reward us in heaven. And that’s even better than an earthly “thank you.” (Matt. 6:1-4)
My brilliant four year old responded, “Well then, I really shouldn’t say my thank yous anymore so people can get their reward in heaven.” Um, no. But good try.
As adults, sometimes we’re not too different from AJ. We want to receive appreciation from others and can get discouraged or even indignant when we don’t receive it, when we’re overlooked, when we’re misunderstood.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the food, the lack of commercialism, the family gathering, even the stand-on-your-feet hours of cooking with the Macys parade streaming from the TV. And I especially love that it’s a day set aside for giving thanks and appreciation, without a required exchange.
But the truth is, sometimes we want an exchange. We want to feel noticed and appreciated, and when we don’t, it puts a damper on the day and on our spirits. Or worse.
If we harbor feelings of being unappreciated, we can descend into self-pity with bouts of bitterness and its thorny cousin resentment.
How to vanquish the unappreciation woes?
1. Remember you’re in good company – with Joseph, Moses, Job, Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus to name a few. These men with all their flaws (except One of course) lived righteous lives, only to have people malign and ignore them. Other people’s troubles shouldn’t make us happy, but could assist us to accept our own plight, even if it’s just the knowledge that we’re not alone.
2. Make every effort to avoid bitterness from developing. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. (Hebrews 12:15 MSG) I found this out the hard way. In gardening and in life, one nasty weed left to develop roots has the power to completely overrun the garden and my emotional health. When we sense the grumbling in our spirit, we need to address it immediately. The longer we let it linger, the harder it is to root out. Forgiveness is a choice we make to release ourselves from the bondage of bitterness.
3. Be an overcomer. Overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21) Okay, let’s be real. Not all underappreciation is evil! Sometimes people are simply oblivious and no harm is intended. In fact, it’s safe to say that this is usually the case. But if Paul can encourage us to overcome evil with good, how much easier is it to overcome thoughtlessness with good? When we look at our offenders with the eyes of Jesus and see them as He does, it empowers us to release some of our discontent.
4. Give thanks. Whether or not it is reciprocated. Simply put, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:18) We often ask what God’s will is in certain circumstances. Paul says clearly that it is God’s will for us to give thanks in ALL circumstances. Giving thanks even if we don’t feel like it is the first step in a life free of discontent.
5. Realign your mind to WHO you are serving. Whose appreciation matters the most? God’s or people’s? While it is nice to hear from people that we’re appreciated, the most important approval statement we can receive is Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord. (Matthew 25:21) Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Cor. 15:58)
6. Look at the bigger picture. Joseph, who was sold by his brothers in a malicious attempt to eradicate him from their lives, was able to say to them, “you meant it for evil; but God meant it for good…” (Gen. 50:20) Even if it’s only in our minds, could we offer that same statement to those who offend us? Can we allow God to work good in our lives from the disappointments? Can we see that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Cor 4:17)? Each offense we receive helps us develop more Christlikeness. He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. (Isaiah 53:3)
And, as I taught AJ, if we don’t receive a thank you here on earth, we are promised a reward in heaven. That is better than any earthly reward!
How to YOU vanquish the unappreciation woes?
Susan Panzica is a Jewish Jersey girl who loves Jesus, her family, the ocean, and mangos. Her passion is to bring an eternal perspective to earthly matters through writing, speaking, teaching, and coffee dates. A quasi-emptynester who works with her chiropractor husband, she thoroughly enjoys when her college age children are home, with or without all their friends. Susan is a speaker, women and children’s Bible teacher, and writer of the devotional blog Eternity Café.