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Is Being Grateful Too Much Work?

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Why does it seem sometimes that only select people have the ability to stay happy through any circumstance that they go through, even when those circumstances are tragic? On the flip side, why does it seem that some people take the smallest inconvenience and dramatize it as if their entire life has been flipped upside down. Why do people who can easily come across as ungrateful through their consistent complaining about what they don't like about their lives get so offended by people that tell them to change their perspective in order to feel more optimistic about their situation?

I think people have to consider that each individual has their own definition of happiness or satisfaction. For me, it is "excitement" and "progression". When my life feels too stagnant or that there hasn't been enough change according to my self-imposed timeline, I begin to have to actively engage in anti-depressive behavior. I like stability but not necessarily "routine". For some, their happiness depends on relationship status. For some it depends on income. For others it may be about where they live or what job they have.

It only helps when someone tells you to "suck it up" or "look on the bright side" if you are someone that has worked at becoming grateful for everything. Usually that work is the result of ongoing trauma or disappointment that you get sick of battling. I can distinctly remember exact years of my life when it was a daily struggle not to cry or not to be mad at God or thinking I would be okay if I died in my sleep-- 1999, 2004, 2010-2012. These feelings usually occurred when something happened in my life that made me feel limited in ability or limited in connection.

When you grow up in a household with multiple children, you learn that it's up to you to define your place and what makes you distinct. You sometimes have to compete even though it is subconscious and you end up comparing yourself a lot. I learned about being grateful at an early age because there was a lot of not-having, despite my mom giving her best effort and eventually getting tired of certain things herself. I watched my mom go through a lot of shit but the amazing thing about it was, she rarely ever complained about it. She would talk her way through it or read her way through it, which turned into action.

It is easier to be pessimistic and not be happy about things going your way, but only for awhile. It is human nature to worry, to be sad, to be angry, to be selfish, and to be overwhelmed. People connect through these feelings, as they should, because it is in pain that we carry each other. And therein lies the problem... to carry another person is divine nature. To believe that you have power, to believe that you can change something, and to believe that you can make something good out of something bad is divine nature. If you keep believing you are powerless and things are unfair, you can sit there in potential energy, draining yourself by just holding it; however, if you believe in hope then usually that means you have to act.

At some point, choosing not to be grateful about the job you lost, about the partner who isn't supportive, or the car that constantly needs fixed becomes heavier than the actual burden of finding a blessing in it. The job you lost could be freeing up the time to search for better income or developing a talent that could end up transforming your life... if you spring into action and reach out to people instead of panicking about how to pay the bills and where to cut expenses.

That partner is teaching you how you don't want to spend your life, how you have developed patience and forgiveness for people who need it, or how to have enough courage to shut it down and start over. That car means you don't have to schedule your life around a bus or train or spend excess money on an Uber. That car is temporary until you get a better one. But thinking this way takes willingness and work that some people don't want to put in because it isn't as easy as being angry at someone else or upset in order to avoid action.

Part of why being grateful is a lot of work is because you have to acknowledge that bad things or bad feelings are going to keep cycling over and over in life. As soon as you fix one problem, there is bound to be two or three coming right behind it. And when that isn't the case, things can be going great and then suddenly things start crumbling around you like a fallen tower. Being grateful for the bull crap means instead of lying in the bed upset about it for days, you now take a couple days and then decide to keep going one day at a time. It means confronting that broken heart and still believing in the possibility that you are now prepared for the one you are really meant to find.

Being grateful means acknowledging you are tired but also finding energy after you allow yourself some rest. Being grateful means learning you don't have to respond to everyone or argue with people who disagree. Being grateful means knowing that everything you just lost wasn't everything. With what is left, you will multiply it and still have multiple loaves and tons of fish to sustain yourself. Being grateful means you get to re-evaluate and kind of stop time in your life in order to move it in new directions.

It's okay to be sad. It is okay to be frustrated. It is okay to want to have more and want to be more. You are not ungrateful because that is how you feel. You are not ungrateful because you need a break or you need to vent or you want to binge eat for a couple days. You are not ungrateful because you are reacting to a huge disappointment or some ideal you had has been shattered. You are not ungrateful because you are mourning loss or acknowledging hurt.

It only becomes ungratefulness when the pain or disappointment is all that you choose to see and you think none of the responsibility is yours. It is only ungratefulness when you consistently reject help or allow how you feel to cause others to distance themselves from you. It is ungratefulness when you act as if others in the world owe you a kind of treatment that you don't provide to them. It is ungrateful when what you have left is not appreciated, therefore costing you even more loss than you originally perceived.

That's the thing... being grateful for help or what you have or where you are does take work. It takes conscious evaluating what you value. It takes consistent inventory of who you are and what you want to do with your time in this world. Some people consider gratitude to be more of a burden than pessimism because they don't want to feel as if they owe someone or have to credit someone or depend on someone. Some people think if they allow themselves to be grateful for the smallest thing that it means they are satisfied with it. Expressing gratitude simply means understanding that there is still opportunity around. There is still some sort of provision around.

Gratitude does have its price to pay but ignoring it comes at a much higher cost. Being ungrateful puts you in solitude with less help and less assistance because people want nothing to do with you. People are likely to assist someone that seems appreciative or cares about the willingness to accept help. Lots of people take joy in sharing their resources so they may feel they are denied a blessing when the opportunity is frequently turned away.

Being ungrateful causes you get physically get sick or unhealthy. When you constantly fail to find an opportunity in everything that happens to you, you begin experiencing excess stress, anxiety, or depression. In comes the high blood pressure, hormonal imbalances, inflammations, and other bodily reactions to feeling it needs to defend itself. Pretty soon you start having all these health issues you never had before and can't figure out why it keeps happening... and you wonder why the medications aren't working.