I've Got a Bad Gratitude

Have you ever had “be grateful” shoved at you? Used to dismiss the hardships that were going around?

I was raised in a type of Christianity that positioned gratitude as a posture of superiority. And also a way to ignore hardships.

“Eat what’s on your plate, be grateful, there’s kids in Africa without food”
(Not to mention the WILDLY racist implications that had?)

“You know other kids have it worse, you need to be grateful for what you have.”

Years of these attitudes, left a bad taste in my mouth about gratitude.

A lot of bitterness, which led to a false gratitude. Like gratitude with an asterisk. Like I’m grateful with my fingers crossed behind my back. Only grateful because I am supposed to be.

Not sure if you’re aware of this, but that’s not gratitude.

It was a long time before I developed a healthy relationship with gratitude practice again.

And you know what the catalyst of that change was?

THERAPY,  lol.

But it was in a moment when my therapist said something that I wasn’t expecting.

“You don’t have to be grateful”

I’m sorry, WHAT!?

I was told every prayer needed to start with thanksgiving, every meal needed to start with grace, every morning needed to start with gratitude for the breath, grateful for the 16 years of existing on this earth under another human’s roof, grateful to be born in America, grateful even for my parents death… because it meant that they were with Jesus. Grateful for everything, because I was taught I deserved nothing.

Forced gratitude has made me suppress many other emotions, especially anger. It allowed me to stay quiet and palatable for other people. It allowed me to stay in my bitterness and anger far longer than I would have been if I was just allowed to not be grateful when I wasn’t.

I wasn’t grateful for their death, how messed up is that?
I wasn’t grateful for the childhood trauma I had, how messed up is that?
I wasn’t grateful for the disordered eating patterns that were forced, how messed up is that?
I wasn’t grateful for the colonialism or racism that was implicitly taught, how messed up is that?

How messed up is all of that?

When I stopped forcing gratitude, all these emotions came up that I wasn’t expecting. Anger, sadness, grief. I let them all out. Even if they weren’t “appropriate” emotions, even if it was messy and I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be feeling them. (FYI, there is no “supposed to” when it comes to emotions, they just exist)

You know what happened when I was done with all of that mess?

I sat in a blank slate. with gratitude.

I’m grateful for the woman I am now, able to take care of the little girl I used to be.

I’m grateful for the good things that happened. And I now have the capacity to hold anger alongside that for all the times that deserve my anger.

I’m grateful for all the ways I learned to survive. And grateful for all the ways to survive I let go so I can thrive.

I’m grateful for the presence of my people, and the absence of people that were never meant for me.

I’m grateful for life and how it continues on after death.

I’m grateful for abundance and the ability to share it.

I’m grateful for the ways I have shed the attitudes and beliefs that others have instilled in me.

I’m grateful for breath and the way it comes out in puffs on a cold morning.

I’m grateful for sun and the way it shines across the floor while my cat naps.

I’m grateful for words and how when they are strung together just right, they can change a life.

I’m grateful for tears shed on a couch that lead to truth.

I’m grateful for stability and the way that I remain even in chaos.

Gratitude has rooted me to good things again. It has grounded me to myself.

So here is your permission slip. You do not have to be grateful if you don’t want to be.

Maybe you need to be angry for a while or grieve something that you weren’t able to before.

I hope in this time where everyone is yelling about gratitude that you hold grace for yourself in the spaces that cannot be met with gratitude yet.

Maybe tomorrow will be a day of gratitude, but it’s also ok if it isn’t. There is plenty of time.

I’m grateful for you being here, who knows where it may lead. I’m grateful for the mystery of growth.