I’ve been studying about gratitude and what to do when you don’t feel thankful or grateful. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
- Gratitude is an action more than an emotion or a word. Rather than waiting for gratitude or gratefulness to well up inside me, I need to take steps to make gratefulness a part of my outlook and my life. I might need to just remind myself to pause for a minute and say “thank you” to the person that checks me out at the store, to the customer service rep on the phone, to my colleague who brings me a print out when they walk past the printer, to the person who holds the door open for me as we walk into Union Station from the metro. I might need to start a gratefulness journal—to make myself find three things for which I acknowledge that I am blessed. I could do a small act of kindness for someone else. Recently, I tipped a waiter who took my take out order well, on a whim– remembering his utter surprise and unreserved thankfulness made me smile for days. The bottom line is not to expect that contentment and gratitude will just find us if we don’t go looking for it.
- There are stages of gratitude, and it’s okay to work my way through them. The first stage is just being thankful for the obvious things that I have—when I have good health, I am thankful for good health, when I have a good meal, I am grateful for the gift of that delicious food. I can join thousands of people in this world in being thankful for air, water, a bed to sleep in, etc. Yes, for some people those are not trite or obvious things, but for most of us they are. And though I feel like I’m cheating if those are the only kinds of things for which I can thank God—it’s okay… as a starting place.
- Where I really want to get is being able to thank God in all circumstances, about everything—and this is where I continue to get tripped up. No, I might not be able to thank God for unanswered prayers, but I can thank God for his comfort when things don’t go the way that I planned or want. I don’t know that everything that’s heavy on my mind will work out to my satisfaction before this year is up, or on this side of heaven; but I do know that I can be thankful that God can redeem and restore anything.
So let’s be kind to ourselves if we’re having a tough time feeling gratitude at this moment. If you can, start to act as if you are grateful. I pray that God will give us all eyes to see his blessings in our lives, and hearts that can accept and still give thanks for the things that are difficult right now. Happy Thanksgiving.