At what point does gratitude stop being gratitude, and becomes a really sugar coated excuse? Gratitude, for me, is a very powerful tool in my life. It helps me with seeing things through different perspectives, it honors my value of appreciation and it enriches my relationships with others. However, lately I have been more in tune with the one way gratitude doesn’t serve me. I realized that sometimes I let gratitude act as more of an excuse and a way to get through something that isn’t making me happy. The intent, gratitude, is good for me, but the outcome, staying in a unhappy mindset or situation for too long, is not good for me.
I think that gratitude is a phenomenal practice to have, especially when life is throwing you lemons. I mean really, how difficult is it to feel frustrated, “woe-is-me” or pissed off after you write out a thank you note to someone? It essentially eliminates what is weighing you down.
But, how long is too long to use gratitude as a coping mechanism? How many times do you have to convince yourself you are grateful for something that isn’t bringing you joy? How do we know when it’s time to stop making things seem better than they are?
It hit me this past week that gratitude can sometimes hold us back in life. I was thinking back on my first job out of college and for the better part of 3 years, I tricked myself into thinking I was enjoying my time because I masked everything with gratitude. “There is that one thing I get to do 10% of my time so I guess it’s not so bad” or “I know this is a really good job and some people don’t even have a job so I should just be grateful”. Gratitude was preventing me from seeing what I really needed to see and accept: I was making excuses for something that was not bringing me joy.
I’ve decided that there’s really only one way to mitigate using gratitude as a coping mechanism: acknowledge what is not bringing you joy and decide that you do not have to be grateful for it any more. I think what this acknowledgment and decision does for us is it allows us to focus on what else is going on in our life, specifically the things that really do bring us joy. Think of all the good in your life that you are ignoring when you waste all of your powerful gratitude on something that’s really not good for you. When we use gratitude as a coping mechanism, it’s like fighting fire with fire. You want less of the heat, the bad thing going on, but you’re thinking about it all the time, and although you think you’re being positive because you’re trying to be grateful about it, you’re really just throwing flame after flame at the thing.
Is there an area of your life where gratitude has gone wrong? Are you giving attention and thanks to something that’s really not serving you? If you are, I urge you to acknowledge it, and immediately make the choice to stop masking it with gratitude. Set the entire thing aside, and pay attention to what is good around you, and overwhelm the good things with gratitude.