Thankfulness vs. Self-Congratulatory “Gratitude”

I’m not sure what happened, but the meaning of “gratitude” seems to have changed over the years. Gratitude used to be about acknowledging and appreciating someone else for their help or service. Now, instead of being grateful to someone, we’re grateful for something.

“What are you grateful for?” is a question that turns inward on the self instead of acknowledging the generosity or kindness of others. What are we really saying here? Is the unspoken question really: “How lucky do you feel that you have all this stuff (or money, or relationship, or success) vs. that poor sap over there who is broke and alone?”

Genuine gratitude should not actually depend on what you have. You could have nothing, but be grateful to someone for being kind to you, or grateful to God for giving you life.

Re-framing gratitude from self-focus to other-focus helps us remember others and generate more kindness and compassion within ourselves. Oddly enough, it also can remove pressure from ourselves from trying to “keep up with the New Age Joneses.” How many New Agers end up using “gratitude” in conjunction with a so-called “abundance” mindset to brag on social media? You know what I’m talking about – people who are constantly crowing online about how wonderful everything is – for them.

Excuse the sarcasm, but haven’t you ever thought something along these lines when seeing a Facebook bragger: Great, you’re “grateful” that your life is so friggin’ awesome! I guess your life is filled with sooo much “amazing” that we should be “grateful” you stepped off your pedestal and deigned to spend time posting about your good fortune to us mere mortals!

Perhaps some will think I’m being “negative” by sharing that but let’s be honest – when you’ve dealt with struggle it can be downright infuriating to see people with “easy” lives (at least on the surface) blissfully unaware that their self-congratulation is annoying at best and lacking in compassion at worst.

Don’t be one of those people. Thank others. And do it sincerely, without making it about you. Saying on Facebook “Oooh I’m so grateful for all the amazing friends I have!” is really not about your friends, but you. (Translation: “I’m so amazing because people like me so much!”) Try making it personal, or even private: Call or write Jenny or Joe to tell them how much you appreciate them.