True vs. False Gratitude
Checking the morning papers or your news feed isn’t always the best way to start the day. While it is important to be engaged in the world and live our faith out as active members of society, we sometimes need to come up for air. The troubles of the world are heavy and in a short time one can feel overwhelmed. When that happens, we become vulnerable to depression, despair, or, worst of all, cynicism. Nothing will erode our faith in God quicker than cynicism.
So how do we come up for air, or to put it another way, how can we restore a hopeful perspective? My answer is gratitude. Gratitude is a medicine that can strengthen us after waves of bad news and uncertainty. Gratitude can lighten burdens and renew our sense of purpose. But, like all powerful medicines, gratitude should be prescribed with care. There are many forms of false gratitude that can leave us feeling worse than before. False gratitude often starts with “at least…” (Brene Brown has a great video on the damage saying “at least” can cause). False gratitude seeks to block our view of hardship and pain; it is denial in disguise and it tries to convince us that “it is not really that bad” when, in fact, we know it is.
In contrast, true gratitude denies nothing, but expands our view to include the good that exists side by side with life’s difficulty. True gratitude usually starts with the recognition that God does not abandon us. No matter what we face, we have the promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. With this assurance, our vision can expand to see people who care enough to effect change, beauty in the most surprising places, and resources we didn’t know we had.
My family and I have been watching the Lord of the Rings series. In last night’s episode, the great war began. The Hobbit Merry enters into the battle with the horrific Orcs despite the futility of their cause. Merry says “I can’t wield a sword, but I love my friends and I want to help them.” Merry’s vision expanded beyond the hopelessness of his situation to encompass those he loved. His gratitude for them changed the picture and it gave him the resolve to continue on.
May gratitude expand our vision too, that we might see love!