Pushing Gratitude   4 comments

One of my friends posted this to Facebook yesterday:


Right then I was in an emotional place to find that picture encouraging, but often I’m not.  The friend who posted this is gracious and gentle, so I would not take offense even if I were in the throes of despondency, especially since she did not send it personally to me.  I only want to underscore the importance of context–my emotional framework shapes my understanding of the message (and this message of positive spin is one of the fundamental tenets of our American culture).  Notice how crucial the background picture is to the sentiment–its impact is subtle but powerful.  Let me demonstrate:


That is a profoundly different message, hugely dissonant.  What was a nice nudge towards contentment is suddenly disturbingly trite.  When someone’s inner world feels this broken, thankfulness will not fix it.  Gratitude has a role even in tragedy, but it is not the remedy for tragedy.  The hungry need food, the homeless need shelter, the lonely need companionship, the vulnerable need safety, the wounded need healing.  Sometimes what I have is not enough, even if I’m grateful.  Scripture wisely tells us to weep with those who weep rather than give them reasons to cheer up.

I realize some folks want to be pointed to the positives, but for many, the chipper “Be grateful!” can be code for “Stop whining!” and that shaming message discredits their needs and belittles their distress.   Perhaps what they need is permission to feel the injustice, encouragement to sit with their sadness,  help to empathize with their own sense of loss.  Maybe the very words they need to hear are, “Yes, it is bad, very bad.  You must feel awful,” rather than, “It’s not as bad as it seems. Look on the bright side.”  Perhaps we could all benefit from learning to sit longer with our sorrow.


Posted March 19, 2014 by janathangrace in thoughts

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4 responses to “Pushing Gratitude

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  1. great piece.I particularly like: “Sometimes what I have is not enough, even if I’m grateful. “

  2. Well said!

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