Last month I wrote about conflict and the importance of moving towards conflict in a constructive way in order to experience the differences of perspective that can enrich our lives in a church community. (See Listening Hearts in the August 2019 Bellringer.)
This month I want to talk about a powerful, simple tool to use in our common life together: appreciation. This tool can work wonders in all situations. It can deepen an already warm and close relationship, and it can open channels of healing in situations of conflict.
What is appreciation? It is a form of gratitude. Appreciation is expressing gratitude towards another person in a concrete way. When we pay close attention and appreciate the specifics or the deeper motivations of what a person is doing or trying to do, it can be immensely encouraging, and even transformative.
For example, when speaking of something we disagree about, we can look for and appreciate the struggle the other person may be having to express some deeply held belief or value. “I appreciate that you care so deeply about this issue. I see that you have thought about it a lot.”
A simple and very powerful practice of appreciation in groups of any size can consist of taking turns appreciating oneself, or another person in the group, such as the person to your right. This can happen in meetings, or over dinner, or even in an impromptu meeting over coffee. “I notice that you always listen to me carefully, and I appreciate that. It makes a difference to me.” Or, “I appreciate the way you got that water for someone who needed it.”
Being truly seen and acknowledged makes us want to be our best selves. Appreciating one another as an on-going practice can strengthen our bonds as a community. Paul wrote in Colossians 2.7: “Send your roots deep and grow strong in Christ—firmly established in the faith you’ve been taught and full of thanksgiving.”
At St. Mary’s, we want to offer the opportunity for each person who wants one to be in a small group that meets regularly. A small group can be a place where we send our roots down deep and grow in strength and commitment to Christ and Christ in each other.
Questions? Contact me at email@example.com.