Having an attitude of gratitude is important. We’ve heard this countless times now. Research into gratitude has shown that it improves our relationships, our happiness, our empathy and even our health. It’s benefits are plentiful and certainly worthwhile. There certainly is value in it and I often recommend the practice to others as well as practice it myself.
But sometimes it only serves to highlight the things I want to be different. So what happens when gratitude is not enough? On the days it’s a struggle to write down three things to be thankful for? When it all feels a bit like toxic positivity and you just don’t have it in you?
Well, sometimes we have to practice anyway, even when we don’t want to. Like learning a musical instrument. Other times we have to take a rest, a small break, a day off and return to it refreshed.
And sometimes we simply have to cry it out. It’s about acceptance and awareness of our emotions, not pushing on, ignoring what our bodies and brains are trying to tell us.
Sometimes we have to learn to repaint the broken places with gold. Have you heard of the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi? I just love it. It is the art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold. It builds on the idea that in embracing our flaws and imperfections, one can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. And that applies to us, today, even when gratitude is wearing thin. In fact, finding gold in the middle of our messy lives may involve asking for help and allowing the love and support of trusted friends and family surround us and show us the gold. We can’t always see it on our own. And that’s the same with gratitude. It takes a community.
And lastly, most of the time we have to go easy on ourselves. Let go of the expectations we should always be grateful, that we should not struggle with the practice of gratitude. Be honest with ourselves and allow grace seep into these deep, hardened places. Grace to try again, grace to accept the harder moments, grace to love yourself. The Grace that is so abundantly and freely poured out to you by God can infiltrate so many areas of our lives, if we let it.
I believe that this grace is the missing key to help discern when to push on, when to rest, how to sit with our emotions, how to love ourselves and ask for help. Grace is always what we need and we shouldn’t be practicing gratitude without it.
Practicing gratitude should never be about performance. Sure it changes our perspective and build our resilience but only if our hearts are genuine. Because we truly desire to see the good and hope and beauty in the world and not because Oprah told us to or because a pretty Instagram page makes it look like a work of art.
Author William Arthur Ward once wrote that “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings”. While this is true, it will never be so without a lens of grace.
So take heart dear friends. Give yourself compassion and allow yourself to try again tomorrow.