“I don’t know what else to do or what next step to take so I’m working on gratitude for…”  So many memes about gratitude out there, so little time.  And yet, I hear over and over from people who no matter how much they work on being grateful, it doesn’t resolve their issues, doesn’t unstick them from what is stuck, doesn’t make them feel any happier, doesn’t make them any more grateful for what they have or had…In fact, working on gratitude often makes them feel bad about themselves because they should feel grateful but they don’t and their issues don’t get resolved and they can’t love their lives and there must be something broken inside them and they are terrible people!!!!

To which I respond *head bang onto desk*.  So here’s the thing:  gratitude is not a magic elixir.  It’s not a one-size-fits-all cure for what ails you.  It’s an emotion and like any other emotion it fits within a spectrum, comes and goes at will, can be coaxed but never forced, and is only one component of the heady mixture that is any human being.  Focusing on gratitude to resolve an issue is somewhat like going on a very strict diet like the all white diet or the only solid foods on Thursday diet.  Yes, you get results but they are all over the map, good/bad/indifferent and most people can’t and shouldn’t do it for long and there are really negative repercussions if they do.

So let’s stop looking at gratitude like the magical Disney fairy and start looking at it realistically.  Gratitude is a great counterbalance when things have gotten too dark, when we feel defeated, when we need to life our head up and see how far we’ve come.  Gratitude comes spontaneously as it is the brother to joy and the nephew of happiness.  But it works best when it’s working hand in hand with truth.  It resists being an antidote to reality and in fact gets very surly when it has to act as if it’s at all related to the lemonade made from spoiled lemons.  For example, being grateful for the crumbs gleaned from an abusive childhood, if forced intellectually rather than coming out of a journey of healing, is further abuse.  Being grateful for the results of having healed from a physical attack, surviving war either as a soldier or a civilian, being alienated, bullied, or made less than is not something to expect, it’s something that is an individual process that may or may not ever happen.  It’s not required for healing nor something to aspire to but is to be accepted and rejoiced in if it arrives.

Being grateful is a fabulous outcome, but the road to it is paved with the riches of honesty and clear sight, empowerment, truth, good boundaries, and a unique voice that has learned to ring out into the world.