We have already looked at the first four prompts. Today, we will conclude with the final two.
As I wrote in the first post, I stumbled around on grateful and appreciate the first few days of practicing this ritual. They seemed the same to me, but I came to distinguish them from one another in that grateful is for things (tangible and intangible) and appreciate is for people.
The natural tendency when thinking and writing about who you appreciate is to list the people who are closest to you (at least I hope that’s who comes to your mind!). However, much of the value of this exercise is to make you more mindful and to stretch your thinking beyond your usual and typical responses. So as I reflect on my day, I consider the people I have observed, talked with, heard from via email and I mindfully write what I appreciate about them. So I’m not just writing a name, but I’m writing a sentence. This is good for the soul. It makes me aware of what beautiful people I have in my life, and it makes me articulate what I appreciate about them.
The Apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in your Lord Jesus Christ…”1 I love that he told what he was thankful for. Vague thanks often comes off as rote or etiquette, but when you get specific (like Paul did), it is much more authentic and meaningful.
And here’s a thought. Imagine the impact that would be felt if we went beyond just writing down our thoughts and made it a habit to tell people what we appreciated about them.
As I have done in the first two parts of this series, I will share a few examples from my journal.
Appreciate – I appreciate ___ for her kind and gentle spirit and the accurate way in which she responded to correction (I have depleted my list of obvious fictional names; today, I’m just going to use blanks in place of names).
Appreciate – Today I appreciate ___ for being such a good mama.
Appreciate – Today I appreciate ___ for her commitment and her strength of character. I appreciate how she stayed by ___ during all the drama.
I am sure that by merely being alive we learn things daily. However, unless we take the time to reflect and summarize, we probably don’t realize that we learned something—unless it was something that produced immediate consequences (which means it was probably learned on the ‘error’ side of ‘trial and error’)! What would be the potential for wisdom if we began to evaluate our days, glean the wisdom that is there, and write it down?
It has been said that we learn from our mistakes (and that is true), but I read a quote recently that takes learning beyond personal experience: “It takes a wise man to learn from his own mistakes and a genius to learn and profit from the mistakes and experience of others.” This quote reiterates the truth in Proverbs 24:30-34. The heart of that passage is this: “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw…” This sums up the purpose of the Learn portion of the end-of-the-day ritual—apply your heart to it (take the time to think about it and articulate it) and learn from it.
Sometime our learning will be from personal experience, sometimes from observing the experience of others (if we are geniuses, that is—which we will become if we learn to ‘apply our hearts’). However the learning comes, this ritual provides a means of holding on to it.
My nuggets of wisdom don’t sound like Proverbs, but they are, nonetheless, truths that I want to remember. I have recorded a few examples below.
Learn – I am learning that just because others can be direct, it does not mean that I can be as direct as they can. I have to temper my directness with kindness and lots of patience.
Learn – I am definitely learning to schedule the important things in life, like time with grandchildren.
Learn – I am learning that being redemptive is more important than having my say.
This concludes the series on the end-of-the-day ritual. Which heading inspires you the most: grateful, opportunity, did, do, appreciate or learn? Are you going to start practicing this ritual (or do you already practice some such ritual)? I would appreciate your feedback on this. Leave me a comment, please.
11 Thessalonians 1:2-3