It is so so so easy to take someone for granted, and so so so destructive.
This happens everyday in every home among people who love each other. I know I am certainly guilty way too often. Yesterday morning my son Brett, who is commuting this semester, got ready to leave for college and opened the refrigerator to get his lunch. But alas, there was no lunch! Melanie had too much to do to make his lunch. Brett was unhappy that there was no lunch made for him. Now Brett is a very nice person…I’m not saying it because he is my son, I am saying it because he is. But I never hear him thank his mother for making his lunch. She is doing him a favor. She is using five of her minutes so he doesn’t have to use five of his. There is no agreement that she is going to make his lunch, she does it because she wants to…it’s a “Mom” thing. So ultimately, an expectation develops, that when met is not rewarded with an acknowledgement (thank you), but when unmet is is criticized.
When we take someone for granted they begin to feel unappreciated and not valued.
Now, think about this conceptually in all the avenues of your life. Wherever you interact with people consistently. Here’s a simple example that could happen at your work:
Let’s assume for a second that there is a new person now sharing the same office space with you. When you come into work the first day your new office mate is there, you find that this person has made the coffee. This is a pleasant surprise and you immediately say thank you. As the weeks progress, each day you come into the office, the coffee has been made and you say thank you. After a while, each day the coffee is made but you no longer say thank you, feeling that it is implied, because after all you have said it many times. It isn’t too long until you assume that the coffee will be made, and actually expect it each day. As a matter of fact, the first day you come in and the coffee is not made, you might instinctively think “Hey, where is the coffee?” You see eventually you will probably just take for granted that this person makes the coffee everyday.
These two mundane illustrations serve as a depiction of how people tend to function over time in a relationship. It doesn’t take long in a relationship to begin taking little things for granted. The longer we are together with someone the more expectations we develop and the more we take for granted. This goes both ways in that we take the other person for granted and they take us for granted. The challenge is that no one likes to be taken for granted. It is the same as not feeling appreciated or valued. We all do things and have things done for us that have been done so frequently or regularly that we no longer are thankful. The lesson here is simple; always thank someone for any act of service or kindness, you may get tired of saying it, but they never get tired of hearing it.
So for today, just for today, join me (I need to work on this as much as you…I promise!) in thinking about the people around you who help you and do things for you, regardless of how small. Let them know you appreciate it and that it makes your life a little better. I promise you this will bring a smile to their face. Then when you’ve spent your day being aware and expressive? Try it again tomorrow!
I wrote this almost two years ago, but this idea is timeless.