They say that we Ethiopians can handle misery, poverty, or deprivation quite well, compared to people from other countries. Although it needs research to confirm that, my gut feeling says we actually have a tough skin. Our patience is remarkable. I have been exposed to people from different countries around the world and the one thing that I found to be unique in us, and which I have not seen in other people, is our thankfulness.
When asked about their wellness with a “how are you?” it is rare to find an Ethiopian who does not answer the question with, “I am fine thank you, praise be to God.” Thanking God throughout the day is the one thing most Ethiopians do not fail from doing.
Ethiopians are also known for using the word “Temesgen,” meaning, “Thank God.” You might ask an Ethiopian about their life, economic status, the welfare of their families, the satisfaction they have with their jobs, or whatever, and they will not go without uttering the word “Tesmesgen.”
Being thankful for whatever they have, as little as that may be, has become a sort of culture, a habit. In fact, one would even feel guilty if they do not utter the word, after making a statement about the quality of their life. They do not dare challenge God, or question God. They accept willingly whatever that has been given to them and many would even add the sentence “yihenenem yata sint ale,” next to the word ‘Temesgen’. Meaning “there are many who do not even have the little that I have, so I should be thankful.”
But is our thankfulness limiting us from asking more, asking for what we deserve, asking for what is our right? Are we setting the bar too low with our thankfulness? One of the key things to happiness is to be thankful. But doesn’t excessive thankfulness lead to a sub-optimal quality of life?
I am thankful myself, so don’t get me wrong. In fact, I am very thankful for each and every little thing that I have and I am even thankful for my thankfulness. But sometimes, I fear that being satisfied with the little that we have may limit us, or restrict us from achieving better outcomes.
Sometimes I just find it amazing that we are made to be thankful for having running water in our houses for two days a week or for succeeding in having our Kebele IDs renewed in one day. It is depressing to see that we are made to be thankful for our very basic human rights.
So are we setting the bar to low with our excessive thankfulness? Are we restricting ourselves from defending our basic rights as human beings? Is our thankfulness hindering us from voicing our concerns?
Because we always think there are those that have it worse or much worse than others, we are thankful to the slightest sliver, setting a standard for ourselves that is way too low than the standards that we actually deserve. We are being abused because of our thankfulness, and we keep silent about it because of the fear of losing the little we have. Should we revisit the degree of our thankfulness? I leave the answer to you.