Today, I was advised to speak about or rather reflect upon the affect of praise and gratitude. It’s a strange experience for me to receive praise as I never know how to react. I’ve spoken about this before, my own feelings on it that I should never need to be thanked for doing what I feel is right aligned with virtue. Yet, I express gratitude myself to those around me to ensure that I stay grounded and that I speak my appreciation to those people and things that I appreciate.
Now, I’m sat here drinking a beer gifted to me for helping someone. Yet, I feel nothing but a strange sadness for it. It’s almost as if, while as lovely a gift it was, it was bitter sweet. I do not need repaying for what I do nor do I want it further than the financial compensation of my job required to live in the world functionally. I enjoyed receiving the gift true, but does it affect my virtue? No. Of course, I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong, it was a nice gesture, yet it feels almost – I don’t know what I feel. Perhaps I need to deconstruct my stiff upper lip to find out.
Today, a close friend said to me that they admire what I do, which I thought was ironic as I admire what they do a lot more. To compare, they are saving lives literally and I’m babysitting. Yet I’m going to steal the wisdom they shared with me to share to you:
“…a mountain doesn’t look as impressive once you’re at the peak but the ones around it do. Its normal for me, yet I can admire yours more as an observer” – X
It is hypocritical to give praise and appreciation and not be able to take it? Surely, as someone looking to live a balanced life, all things should flow equally in a give and take motion of forces. We all like to receive praise and gratitude sure, yet we shouldn’t act for those things. We should act in a way that comes naturally to our humanity in service of each other regardless of thanks or reward. When we start to rely on praise as motivators, we become seekers of fame and fortune rather than inner peace and outer peace.
It goes without saying that I admire my friend whether they accept it or not or whether they feel they deserve it or not. They continue to inspire me day after day with strength, humility and giving nature; a kindness rare and a beautiful soul always enduring never surrendering. They enrich me and I remind them, something I think, that doesn’t happen enough. Yet why is it so challenging to turn the same loving smile inward?
“They cannot admire you for intellect. Granted – but there are many other qualities of which you cannot say, ‘but that is not the way I am made’. So display those virtues which are wholly in your own power – integrity, dignity, hard work, contentment, frugality, kindness, independence, simplicity, discretion, magnanimity. Do you not see how many virtues you can already display without any excuse of lack of talent or aptitude? And yet you are still content to lag behind. Or does the fact that you have no inborn talent oblige you to grumble, to scrimp, to toady, to blame your poor body, to suck up, to brag, to have your mind in such turmoil? No, by heaven, it does not! You could have got rid of all this long ago, and only be charged – if charge there is – with being rather slow and dull of comprehension. And yet even this can be worked on – unless you ignore it and welcome your stupidity.” – Meditations 5.5
I should begin to practice and will attempt to praise myself and show myself the same gratitude others hold for me as I them. I want to be able to be a mirror of their light as they are for mine. Love them, love myself, love universe, amor fati. It’s funny to me that for a philosophy seen so dry in the media through Mr Spock of Star Trek and the apathy of Jedi in Star Wars, stoicism at it’s core is about love, gratitude and praise for our reality. Embrace it all.