Five years after founding The Gratitude Campaign, I've received over 10,500 e-mails, and 1,500 comments on YouTube. It seems that there is a lot to talk about with regard to gratitude for those who serve; not the least of which is the ever present challenge of understanding how to keep the politics out of it. Hopefully this blog will give us an opportunity for some rational, reasonable, and respectful discussion. I hope you'll join us...

~Scott Truitt, FOUNDER


Monday, January 25, 2010

On "You Should..."

I received a comment today on one of my blogs below that informed me of the following:

“What a bunch of crap, there are so many people in the US that have been laid off, or have a terrible sickness, and so on and so on, you should focus your efforts at HOME.”

I could debate that point with the author, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, and explain to them that there are over 20 million living Veterans in the United States, and that a large percentage of the 2.6 million who are currently serving are also stationed at bases here in the U.S., and therefore I am focusing my efforts here at home every bit as much as anywhere else.

But I’m not sure that’s even the compelling issue here. What is more compelling to me is the frequency with which we tell other people what they “should” be doing. If you take a step back from that for just a moment and think about what is really being said behind that single word it might sound something like this:

“My world is not the way I want it to be. What is important and meaningful to me is more important than what is important and meaningful to you. And in order for all to be right in my world, you must agree with my values and priorities and do what I think should be done.”

It sounds a little less reasonable when we put it that way, doesn’t it? And yet there seems to be an increasing number of people out there who feel perfectly justified in telling others what they “should” be doing.

What I've found ironic about this is that, whenever someone tells me what I “should” be doing with thegratitudecampaign (or instead of thegratitudecampaign, as the case may be) I always ask them the same question: What are you doing to take action on that “should”? I have yet to receive a single response to that question. Not one. What I assume that that means (and my observations thus far support this assumption), is that the people who tend to speak the loudest about what others “should” be doing are typically the ones doing the least to take action on that “should” themselves. It’s as though we’ve decided that we get as much karmic credit from the universe by vehemently telling others what they should do as we get by doing that thing ourselves.

I have also observed an interesting paradox in that those who do take action on what they are passionate about tend to have more respect for and be more accepting of others’ right to have their own priorities and passions. They understand that we all have our own values and priorities based on our own personal experiences – and one is not more important than another. I think that taking action on supporting the unemployed and the sick are noble and admirable pursuits, no more or less important than supporting those who serve. And I completely support Mr. or Ms. Anonymous in taking action on those passions. I support both of those efforts in my own small way. But they do not hold a place in my heart like thegratitudecampaign does. And so I will continue to do what is important and meaningful to me, and allow others to do what is important and meaningful to them. And I trust that they are all good, and they all support each other in the end.

The point is, “should” carries with it judgment that is likely counterproductive to the intention behind the statement. I find that we are more productive when we lead by example; when we suggest things that people “could” do rather than telling them what they “should” do; and when we allow everyone the freedom and space to do what feels right for them in their hearts as we do what feels right in ours. Whenever I am tempted to tell someone what they “should” be doing, I ask myself the same question I ask others: What am I doing to take action on that “should”. And more often than not, when I am tempted to “should” someone else, I am really “shoulding” myself.

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