Sometimes people throw around the word "gratitude" as if it were a golden apple granted to everyone just for breathing. Yes, studies have shown that gratitude makes us happier people, and I'm all for that, but guess what—if you're not currently grateful, you're okay.
Life never really matches the scripts we've created in our heads, right? Our relationships are never quite as easy as we'd hoped, loved ones pass away, and the path is not always lined with spectators cheering us along the way.
When we're in the trenches of our trials, the last thing we feel is grateful. Gratitude is something we can only see in the reflection of our rear view mirrors, once we're ahead of turmoil we've conquered.
Hearing about the glories of gratitude can be a miserably lonely place for someone who is walking through a dark time in their life. They wonder why they too can't feel the peacefulness of gratitude and see the blessings.
Because we can't do that until we face the cold void.
Pretending or wanting to be grateful is a cheap coat of paint that peels quickly. Gratitude has to be earned, one ugly, maddening step at a time.
When my marriage ended, I felt more broken than I've ever felt. A deep depression moved into my gut and it terrified me. I felt alone and like a failure. Being in the eye of the storm was not the time for me to look around and do a twirl of joy for my new life and squeal about how grateful I was for the blessings that remained.
I simply did not have it in me.
Do you not have it in you right now? Hey, that's okay, but you've got some work to do, right?
Take the horrid beast that's eating you by the hand. Look it in the eye, and authentically walk through every emotion it throws at you instead of telling yourself how you should be feeling or how you wish you were feeling.
Gratitude comes when you're on the top of the hill, breathing hard, realizing you made it, and you are right where you need to be.
Do you have someone who's stumbling through darkness right now? Do them a favor and don't throw trite phrases at them that encourage them to be grateful. It's the equivalent of telling a toddler to do his taxes. It will only lead to failure and frustration.
Sit with them in silent awkwardness, and listen to them when they want to talk. Stand by their side in their painful uphill journey, and tell them what they feel at this moment is what they should be feeling.
At the top of the hill lives the golden apple of gratitude if you are open to it. Once we get there, it doesn't mean we won't roll back down the hill some days and more work will need to be done, but today is all we need to see for now.