Years ago, I read a blog post from Jon Acuff about a phenomenon he titles “The Jesus Juke”. You know that moment you’re having a totally normal conversation, and then someone manages a Christian one up. If you aren’t familiar with this, go read Jon’s post. It’s short, hilarious, and also TRUE.
Sometimes in the past I’ve felt like the month of November is one big Gratitude Juke. It probably doesn’t help that in years past this is also when my seasonal depression has really kicked in. Either way, if you’re realistic about your life, you don’t get to be in the Gratitude Club. (You also don’t get to be in the gratitude club if you don’t post about it on social media. Every day.)
“Gratitude” can easily become a distraction from things in life that we really need to address. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of “Let’s use this month to avoid any emotional labor by admiring each and every sunset!” Sometimes, we are all so damn busy being “grateful” for the sunset, or our warm houses on cold nights, that we forget to see *each other.* This is in the same vein as "There are starving children who would love your meal" guilt trip. Any time shame enters the equation, we've gotten something wrong.
Last week I talked about the importance of having gratitude game, and I do believe that thankfulness is a key component of living out the most wholehearted and authentic expression of ourselves.
But let’s remember a couple key points as we all work to up our gratitude game this month.
Life can be hard, and beautiful.
Thankfulness isn’t a band aid or distraction from hard things in our lives. It tethers us, adds emotional dimension, and keeps us present, but we still need to remember that to heal, we have to feel and deal first. (Thanks Tiffany Roe for that little mantra!)
I liked things about Ann Voskamps book, “One Thousand Gifts” but she also goes down this path. Part of her more radical thankfulness practice was to replace uncomfortable and painful feelings with feelings of gratitude since we supposedly only have room to feel one thing at once. (I’m also not really sure about that.) This is dangerous territory to me.
Just like physical pain is a warning that something is wrong or that we are in danger, our emotional pain and uncomfortable feelings are instructive. They are always telling us something. Finding any way to suppress them puts us in danger of not actually doing our emotional work in order to grow.
Thankfulness is personal.
What we are grateful for can be minute, and meaningful, and that is so personally specific to US. I fully believe in letting people have the things they enjoy. I’m not going to tell you not to post thirty days of thankfulness on social media. I AM going to suggest that celebrating personal thankfulness for circumstances is on a different level from finding thirty people throughout the month to personally thank for their presence in your life.
Let’s use gratitude as a way to nurture connection and relationship instead of using it to steamroll feels.
In case you were wondering, I am incredibly thankful for every one of you that read, comment, DM, and share my blogs. It means the world to me and gets me up at 6am to keep writing.
Thank YOU for your support.