Season of gratitude
by Teresia Smith
Webster defines gratitude as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Genuine gratitude is a spontaneous uncontrollable emotional response, similar to deep joy. It feels good. We all hope to have reason to express gratitude in our lives. But did you know there are three types of gratitude: reverse, false, and true. Let’s examine them.
What is reverse gratitude? This is when we are grateful for things that did not happen. Years back, Rascal Flatts had a hit song titled “God Bless the Broken Road” which was about being thankful for all the wrong turns, long lost dreams, and heartache that eventually led the singer to the person he’s truly meant to be with. When life is tough, it can be hard to feel thankful for what’s happening at the moment. However, we can choose to look around and be thankful for what is not happening. For example, maybe an electric bill came that is much more expensive than you were expecting. You can remind yourself to be thankful that you are living in a time with electricity and not having to use candles and lamps. What about if struggling to pay the bills because of leaving an unhealthy relationship and starting over? Thankfulness for the ability to feel safe and choose your own path can be found. There will always be things in our lives that don’t turn out like we hoped or just don’t follow our plans. However, we can make sure to acknowledge that sometimes a broken road can lead us down a better path.
What is false gratitude? Exactly how it sounds. False gratitude is disingenuous and not authentic. It can happen when we feel that someone is expecting us to thank them but we don’t really feel thankful or that it is deserved. Demanded gratitude is not genuine or heartfelt. Maybe it started when you were a child and you were forced to thank someone for an unwanted gift or you were forced to hug someone to thank them, but in reality, you cringed at their touch. Maybe as an adult, you were forced to display gratitude to someone who didn’t deserve it just to keep the peace. False gratitude, often resulting from experienced trauma, can cause confusing feelings that carry into adulthood and affect future relationships.
So what is true gratitude? It begins with our acknowledgement that, even amidst hardships, there are many good things and good people in our lives. True thankfulness comes from our heart and this gratefulness keeps us mentally healthy. True gratitude is not forced but seeps out from genuine feelings of thankfulness.
Gratitude isn’t meant to be a painful word that brings negative feelings of how we have been treated. Those who have experienced trauma and neglect often have a heart full of pain and anger they are living with. The abuse suffered should never have happened and it often feels like the victim is the only one left to deal with the pain. Somehow, in order to move forward and experience a thriving life, there must be a way to let go of the pain and sorrow and start to cultivate a sense of gratitude for the good things that are now present. Letting go just means not allowing the past to color the future and allowing healing to happen.
Finding gratitude is not easy, but so worth it. Seek those things in life that you appreciate and surround yourself with those good things. Author Farshad Asl sums it up with his thought, “Don’t be a prisoner of the past, be a pioneer of the future.” Steam fogs a mirror and makes it hard to see the reflection. Past trauma also fogs over our present and can obscure our future. When you work through your feelings and find a way to let go, you can clearly see your future and move into it with confidence, knowing who you are and what you want from life. No more living in the shadows of those who harmed you.
Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. You may reach our Jackson County Office at 256.574.5826 for an appointment. Reach out. You are not alone.