“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” ~ Mark Twain
The gratitude movement is here — and people everywhere are preaching its magic and necessity. The magic of gratitude is confessed in all places by all sorts of faces. You can’t make it out of the Co-op without hearing what your checker has to be grateful for. Then there’s the pins and posts on Pinterest and Facebook that are constantly bombing our newsfeed with the why’s, how’s, and what’s of being grateful. And there’s no way you’re walking out of a yoga class without your teacher standing up on their soapbox mat to give an inspiring speech on the topic. Simply put, everybody’s doing it and gratitude is everywhere. So, it’s obviously a good idea. Right?
Why Everything I Thought I Knew about Gratitude Is Wrong
Well, I’ve actually come to see that everything we think about gratitude can actually do us more harm than good. In fact, most of us are using gratitude in a way that has us brainwashing ourselves. We have this idea that anger and sadness are “bad” and need to be sugar coated with a casing of gratitude. The trouble with this is that, over time, that casing is going to wear down. And when it finally cracks open, the anger and sadness will be waiting inside — either well preserved or uglier than ever.
There’s no denying that happiness is a prerequisite to living a happy life. As someone who got tossed around in group homes and experienced a number of painful experiences, I know how vital it is to choose light over darkness. But I also know that happiness doesn’t come in pretending there’s something to be happy about when your heart is screaming that it’s not. Saying you’re happy when you’re unhappy is like sticking flowers in a turd and calling it a vase.
Being truly happy means that nothing can still the incredibleness that lives within you. Thus, true happiness in life requires a state of mind that’s lit with an awe and appreciation that’s ever-present. So gratitude isn’t about denying feelings and finding something that’s okay with life when, in fact, life is infected with situations and relationships that are very much not okay. Not at all! In fact, the greatest gratitude comes in feeling and embracing these experiences 1000%.
We use gratitude as a game of pretending, and that’s why we never win. Gratitude is about seeing opportunity in everything. When you can see that lessons are everywhere, then the present immediately shifts from a source of frustration to an opportunity for growth. And when you see everything as an opportunity to evolve and advance, then past pains suddenly become a source of your deepest insights and greatest strengths.
We can see breakdowns as unfair hardships — and many of us do — but the fact is that breakdowns become the greatest breakthroughs. There’s a reason that this issue came about, and that’s because we have things to learn and to change. We may want to flip down into an episode of violent sobbing or ferocious yelling, but how will that solve our problem? It won’t! And we all know it! And that brings up the incredible irony which is that the problem isn’t actually “the problem.” The problem is that we see the situation as a problem. And so we’re trying to bash through a rock wall — even though it’s only damaging ourselves and having a negative impact on everyone around us. No matter how hard we hit, the wall which is our problem will not be going anywhere. Sure, we can try to tear it down into bits and pieces, but how long will it take you to finally force your way past to move forward. If we really want to continue our path onward, we need to figure out how we can move beyond and rise above it.
But the expansion of gratitude doesn’t simply end by seeing the lessons and opportunities within all things. Oh no. Because there will be hardships and challenges that won’t be accepted without us first kicking and screaming in resistance. This fighting comes to us so naturally and feels so right. Indeed, there are people who would even insist that it’s about “taking a stand” and it’s so very, very necessary — but this response to life does, in fact, rob us of the greatest gift we could ever give ourselves. And that’s the gift of being All-Powerful.
Yes, this is a dogmatic statement that would have millions spinning in their graves, but consider it… No yelling, or worrying, or crying hot tears in an emotional childish rampage. No acting frantic or raising your fists at the slightest of sights and sounds Instead, you calmly look forward with open eyes and a quiet mind and completely accept the situation. And as you consider the paths that lie ahead of you, you feel only a great peace and contentment in knowing that you’ll give your very best — whatever that best may be.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, looking at the greatest of challenges in this manner is actually the only way to discover the best resolution. Having a clear mind and an unmuddied heart will reveal options, and solutions, and opportunities that just can’t be seen by the eyes of hurt and angry minds.
When Einstein was asked about his intelligence he said, “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Even history’s famous “genius” attributed greatness not to a powerful brain, but to a determined and contemplative mind. And so it is that the greater the problem, the greater the need for a well-thought solution. And any well-thought solution requires the time of intelligent considerations and wise contemplations, not brash force and emotional decisions.
Just as we tell our children to be calm and patient and polite, so too must we cultivate these powerful qualities.
So, you see, the importance of gratitude is as imperative as lively as ever. But in a way that makes you more empowered than you could ever imagine. Because once you see that everything does, in fact, happen for a reason, you get to decide just how meaningful and profound these happenings are. And now I ask you to consider the ways in which you can change the meaning of each and every life experience you’ve ever had by contemplating the wisdom of no one other than Luminita herself…
“Be thankful for you past mistakes and failures. It is because of them that you have learned what works and what doesn’t.
Be thankful for both the good and bad experiences life has sent your way. It is because of these experiences that you have learned some of life’s most valuable lessons…
Be thankful for the difficult times, for they have shown you how strong you can be.”
Life isn’t about being grateful for the things that are right. It’s about seeing the opportunities where you can make life right for you. Indeed, you are the author of the book which you call Life. And so, the only questions now are where will you start, and what story will you choose? And will you not choose to write a story which will be the greatest tale you’ve heard in all of your life?
Happy writing everyone….
at 6:55 pm
Thank you for the wise words. It has helped me to reflect my life, where I’ve been and what new path I would like to take going forward.
at 1:13 am
I think this is my favorite of your blog posts. Very insightful. You’ve given me a new way to look at this topic– thank you! 🙂
at 5:48 pm
thank you very much i have been struggling in life ,
but over the last week since joining purpose fairy reading your book
i am getting their slowly.
thanks again for your help.
at 11:00 am
I’m a latecomer to radical acceptance and the understanding that acceptance doesn’t mean condoning or approval – just acceptance. Being able to move one, with resilience and an open, fresh mind, means so much. And the whole blind grateful for everything chorus does ring a little untrue in this light.
Great post, nice to have some meaningful discussion on these topics!
at 4:34 pm
Ha! I empathize with you on this COMPLETELY! 😀
at 2:30 pm
Love your perspective. I’m with Einstein. Lol… I think I hang in there too long sometimes. Although it’s fairly bold of me to put myself in his company. More lol.