You are under-appreciated

You’re under-appreciated. You really are.

Very few people realize how much you do “behind the scenes” at work, in your family, as a volunteer, in __________ (fill in your own setting).

If it weren’t for you, _______ probably just wouldn’t happen.

Without you, ________ would be a total mess.

People don’t realize how stressed you are because of __________. And they underestimate the sacrifices you’ve made for the sake of _________.

Unless you (a) are surrounded by unusually affirming people, (b) are unusually modest, (c) are unusually lazy, or (d) have it unusually easy, you probably could fill in most of the blanks above.

You are under-appreciated. And it feels nice just to hear it, doesn’t it? You would love for someone to pick up some of the slack and help you out with one of those blanks above. But really, just a sincere acknowledgment and appreciation of one of those fill-in-the-blank statements would go a long way.

If you’re someone in my life, let me take this far-too-generic moment to say Thank You! and I’m sorry. As I run through the list of people in my life, I realize that all of you do much more than I usually recognize. And I praise you for it much too little. I hope to do better about that, and I’m genuinely sorry that I haven’t already.

I think it’s natural that we don’t fully appreciate people in the moment. We don’t see everything they’re doing until they stop. Sometimes it may take years to realize the importance of things they were doing. We often don’t stop to reflect on their virtues until they’re gone.

This has given rise to the “What my parents think I’m doing… What I’m actually doing” memes. (See my favorite pastor one below.) The general theme of the memes: our friends, our parents and society tend to see our jobs as either easy or glamorous. The reality of our work is much more mundane. People don’t usually see other people’s mundane, nor do they realize how much time it tends to consume or how frustrating or exhausting it can be. I’ve heard people say, “My dream job is the job everyone thinks I have.”

Because it’s rare to stop and reflect on people’s virtues until they’re gone, we often think and hear the most glowing things about people at their funerals. And those things are usually true – not just insincere eulogy. And we hear things like, “I wish I would have told her that more when she was here.” Someone’s death forces us to do something we rarely did when she was alive: stop and consider all of her virtues and contributions.

Less dramatically, I’ve experienced the same when a friend or co-worker moved away. I didn’t realize how much I valued his friendship and contribution until he was gone.

What You Can Do

You’re under-appreciated. What do you do? So long as that’s your focus, here are your likely choices: (1) do your best to show others how under-appreciated you are; (2) resent others for their lack of acknowledgment and envy their easier place in life or the excessive praise they seem to receive; (3) stop doing those things that go unnoticed until people begin to miss them; (4) keep on doing what you’re doing and carry around some self-pity.

It’s clear none of those are good options. They all revolve around focusing on your own plight and others’ under-appreciation of you. Now don’t feel too bad about it if you’ve had some of those feelings. Really, I think all but the most praised, modest, lazy, or lucky among us have felt under-appreciated.

My proposal here is unsurprising, but hopefully a helpful reminder: shift your focus. Recognize that most people reading this were able to fill in their own blanks above. (Try to go back and read the above from the perspective of a close friend, your mom, your daughter, your boss, one of your employees…) And most of them agreed that just some extra recognition of their own virtues and contributions would go a long way.

Why don’t you use this Thanksgiving season to try to better appreciate some of the people in your life? Look someone in the eyes and say, “I just wanted to tell you what a great job you do at _______, and I doubt you hear it enough. I know you don’t hear it enough from me.” Send someone an e-mail (even better, a hand-written letter) to tell them you’re not sure how _____ would happen without them. Post a note of appreciation on their Facebook wall for all to see. What’s the 15-second line you would share at their funeral? Share it now.

Several people on Facebook have made it a goal to share a piece of thanksgiving each of the past 30 days. What if you did something similar, but made it more personal? What if you went out of your way once a day to share your gratitude toward a friend, family member, or colleague? It would go a long way. And I think it would also get you less focused on your own under-appreciation.

See my other favorite pastor meme on my Modern Pastor page.

pastors - what i really do

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