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Thursday, October 10, 2013

100 Days of Gratitude: People You Don't Want to Thank

We've been much quieter than we expected during our self-proclaimed 100 Days of Gratitude. You could chalk it up to being too busy, but I think, in reality, we've been quiet because the process of thanking people for 100 days has required more internal processing than either of us realized.

We'll have a summary of lessons learned soon, but before we do, we want to share one lesson that struck both Jim and me.

Sometimes, there are people you should thank that you don't want to talk to again, let alone thank.

I'm certain that you have people who have crossed through your life's journey who have been just mean. Cruel. Rotten to you and your loved ones. Sometimes it's unintentional, but sometimes it's specific and targeted.

These people hurt you.

As Jim and I reviewed our lists of people to thank, certain people came up over and over. "Oh, I'll never thank that person." But as we talked about this whole process more, we recognized these main things:

1. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Yes, it's an overused phrase, thanks to Nietzche (and Kelly Clarkson), but it can be true. Difficult people and challenging situations can test your resolve and put your own beliefs into a crucible to be refined.

For example, my own view of philanthropy was once tested by someone who believed that fundraising was a zero sum game. "If I have a dollar to give, and I give it to someone else, you're out of luck," he said. "Every other organization is a competitor."

In response, after some thought, I said, "Do you know where the word 'philanthropy' comes from? It's from the Greek, 'philos' and 'anthropos.' It's about love of your fellow man." I continued, "You don't tell a parent that they'll love the second child less because there's a finite amount of love. Love expands and grows. Philanthropy is the same way. If you truly love a cause, you'll find a way to support it." I couldn't articulate that thought until I was pushed to do so.

2. Mean people can push you outside of your comfort zone. Generally, I am not a huge risk taker. I like to know what's going to happen and like to be in control of things that I can control. There have been times in my life, however, where it felt like there was nothing under my control, and I had to adjust. I had to take risks.

There's a quote on my wall that says this: "The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be...because of all I may become, I will close my eyes and leap!" Sometimes, I didn't leap, I was pushed!

3. There is something to learn from every chapter (or scene or paragraph) of my life. It was strange that once I started thinking about the lessons that came out of difficult interactions and relationships, my reactions to that time of my life seemed a little more detached. I could process the lesson without getting caught up in the emotions. Sometimes the lesson is as basic as, "that person is not really your friend," but it's a lesson, nonetheless.

I'm not saying that either Jim or I had this great epiphany where we are both willing to let bygones be bygones with everyone in our lives. I certainly am not saying that we're going to be friends with everyone we've met. There will be some people that I will never like or trust again. But I think we've both come to realize that even the difficult people have added something to our experiences and can be thanked.

Even if we can never bring ourselves to say so.


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