Monday, January 12, 2015

The Spiritual Discipline of Saying Please and Thank You

Yesterday's post about decluttering, which may or may not be a spiritual discipline, made me think about other aspects of life, which could take on aspects of a spiritual discipline.

Last week someone told me that I'm the only person at school who ever says please or thank you--another type of invisible work.  At first I thought that she was upset and must be exaggerating, but then I started listening to those around me.  I realized that she's right--very few people say please and thank you.

I started saying it more after watching my sister and brother-in-law interact with my nephew when he was a toddler.  I noticed that he was more likely to engage in the kind of behavior that they wanted when he was thanked for it.  I started trying it in my own home.

It may feel silly to say, "Thank you so much for unloading the dishwasher."  We might argue that people should do their chores without needing that affirmation.  But those daily processes go more smoothly with a please and a thank you.

Spiritual folks of all sorts have long extolled the virtue of gratitude.  I would argue that we need to expand it. Not only do we need to show gratitude to our creator, but we also need to show gratitude to all of those around us.

And on the days when we're snippier than usual, it won't hurt to write a note or an e-mail to apologize.  Last week my spouse thought that I had been critical, but I certainly hadn't meant to be.  In our younger days, this kind of unpleasantness could have dragged on for days. 

But in midlife, I've come to realize that my intentions aren't the only thing.  Others have a right to feel the way they feel.  If I didn't mean to affect them that way, I need to apologize.  And so I wrote a note, apologizing for letting my hearbrokenness about work poison our time together.  I wrote a note because I had to leave before he work up.  Thus, I returned to a home with harmony restored.

This week is the first week of Winter quarter at school.  I will be engaging ever more fiercely the spiritual discipline of saying please and thank you--and the spiritual discipline of smiling, not scowling.

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