Gratitude and Struggling
Have you noticed how much talk there is about gratitude and how little about acknowledging our struggles? It seems to come up every day that we are told to be grateful for what we have, to count our blessings, to remember that, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” I myself say all of those things. I believe all of those things. I also believe that it can be incredibly hard to be grateful when life seems unfair, stressful, or just awful.
My problem with the whole notion of gratitude is that, too often, it feels as though someone is telling me that my problems, challenges, and concerns aren’t valid. That if I were only more grateful then all the other stuff wouldn’t be a problem. Yeah, right.
A friend of mine recently wrote a beautiful piece about her experience of depression and being suicidal. I wonder whether she would still be alive if someone had told her to be “grateful”?
What if, when we are struggling, instead of using the idea of gratitude as another thing to beat ourselves up about doing “wrong” we actually embraced where we are in the moment? What if we allowed ourselves to feel all the feelings that the world tells us to stuff down? What if we were honest and asked for help when we needed it? What if we simply told the truth?
It seems to me that part of the pain of struggling is that we believe we shouldn’t be struggling. We look at other people and their lives seem so simple and tidy while our life feels so messy. Don’t get me on my soapbox about not comparing our insides to someone else’s outside. I’ll just say this, the internal experience and the external appearance can be, and often are, very different.
Life ebbs and flows and sometimes gratitude can be hard to come by. We do ourselves harm when we avoid the painful, ugly feelings because the world is telling us to put on a happy face. Yes, we should count our blessings, if only because there are so many more of them than we normally notice. But we should also count our struggles because that is where the learning and the compassion and the resilience come from.