Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I know this is the season for giving thanks, but I’m of the frame of mind to suggest that we also need a season of not giving thanks. How often do we say “thank you” not because we are really grateful for the life sustaining actions of others and a desire to celebrate that appreciation with others, but instead say thank you from a place of politeness or wanting to make sure that others accept us? Sometimes when we say “thank you” I imagine that we do so to manipulate the other – to get them to keep on meeting our needs with their actions or words. Others do the same to us, and with every “thank you” heard it’s as if it is a demand to get us to do what some one else wants and not what we want. We oblige because we wish to stay in relationship, never questioning shared practices that do not strengthen relationships and can foster resentment. Often these practices are subtle and we don’t realize how we are like an army recruit at basic training that after being punished by the drill sergeant, we are trained to say, “thank you sir, may I have another?” To the practices of oppression and violence that induce individual and societal suffering, isn’t it time to say, “no thanks?”
How do we say, “no thanks?” I believe we can do this by telling others how we feel based on life sustaining needs met (or not). We don’t mindlessly offer up thanks or ignore chances to share gratitude, but honestly and courageously express the true desire of our hearts and minds, which are based on a dream of loving and empowering relationships, and equality.
It can be challenging to express our disappointment with others in an empathetic way. So start small and practice with easy things. Perhaps when offered this week a second helping of candied sweet potatoes, which you don’t really like you can say “no thanks, I’m quite satisfied with the wonderful meal we’ve already shared.” With practice we can from candied yams to saying no thanks to poverty, to lack of health care, to domestic violence, and to anything that does not say yes to life for all beings.