Even having read just the title I suspect there are some people who disagree with the statement. “Taking ‘it’ for granted is inevitable.” First, some will question what ‘it’ is. Second, some will argue that there are some things that are never taken for granted. To address the first – ‘it’ can be almost anything that we really should appreciate or be thankful for. Things like waking up each day, not experiencing pain, having food available, being healthy, getting attention or gifts and more. ‘It’ can be anything that we should be thankful for each day, and throughout each day, but that we usually get so used to we stop really appreciating it; we start to take it for granted – until it’s not there any more. To address the second – there are certainly some things that never should be taken for granted, but unless we make a conscious effort to recognize and appreciate them, eventually we just accept them as a normal part of our day; we expect them; we take them for granted.
Let me give you a couple of examples to more adequately explain what I mean. My first example is the gift of flowers from husbands to wives. Most of the wives I know don’t regularly get flowers as a gift from their husband. It’s a gift they get on Valentine’s Day or their anniversary. If they get flowers any other day, it’s quite a surprise and usually appreciated. It’s a gift that they appreciate the uniqueness of on the other days as well. That said, I know a husband who owns a nursery and he gives his wife flowers every day. Every morning there is a new bouquet on the dining room table. It’s different each day – both in types of flowers, numbers of flowers and arrangement. Each day his wife thanks him, but he’s commented to me that she’s come to expect it. In almost five years he’s only missed one day and rather than asking him if everything was okay, she pointed out that he’d forgotten her flowers.
Consider that reaction for a moment. She had changed her behavior, over time, from truly appreciating the fact that the took the time to collect, arrange and put the flowers in place for her. She had gone from a habitual “thank you” to, “You forgot my flowers.” His gift, that she once appreciated so deeply, had become something she came to expect in her day. She took for granted that they would be on the table.
Here’s another example: A husband I know jokes about how his dirty clothes miraculously go from the hamper to being folded neatly on his side of the bed or hung up as appropriate. He knows that his wife does this chore and he makes a point to thank her for it. Then one day he finds his clothes clean, not folded or hung up, but left in the basket on his side of the bed. His wife had made time to do the laundry as she prepared for a work trip, but had run out of time for folding and hanging. The man confessed that he grumbled as he folded and hung his clothes, wondering why his wife didn’t get it done – without even asking her. Not only had this man not particularly appreciated the effort his wife had put into the laundry previously, but he was actually upset when, due to circumstance, he had to participate in the chore. He most assuredly took for granted that his dirty clothes would be cleaned, folded and/or hung up.
Those are just two examples of gifts, received from others, that a spouse took for granted. They may not have started out that way, but as the event/gift became a fixture in their every day, the appreciation dwindled and eventually morphed into taking the gift/effort for granted.
As humans, we tend to do this with… anything we regularly have. We have expectations based on experience and if the expectations aren’t met, we want an explanation why and we don’t usually slow down to consider whether we should be extra appreciative each day.
We tend to appreciate the special events or efforts. The husband who lets his wife sleep in on the weekends while he gets up with the children to give her a break from her normal parenting schedule. The wife who makes a special birthday dinner from scratch. The husband who takes a day off as a surprise to his wife so he can either spend time with her or do the housework she would normally do just so she can have a break from it. The child who decides to take out the trash or vacuum the house without having been asked and with a smile – as a gift to his parents so they can relax some on a given day.
What we tend to eventually take for granted are the extra efforts made so regularly that they no longer feel special or unique; they simply are. Recognizing that, here’s my challenge to each of you reading this: stop for a minute. Contemplate your day. Figure out what you took for granted. Take the extra minute to appreciate what it means to you and express that appreciation appropriately. And if that something you took for granted doesn’t mean all that much to you, give your spouse/child/friend the gift of their time back by letting them know that, while you do appreciate it, it’s lost its luster and they can take a break from it for a while.