We have all seen it when someone lacks gratitude. It can feel hard to celebrate someone who only celebrates themselves, even if they’ve accomplished amazing things. Watching from the sidelines, it’s cringey; if you’re involved in those accomplishments in any way, it can hit a special pain spot.
On the other side, frequently overlooked, we find the opposite feeling – feeling too guilty to be truly grateful.
Maybe you’d had moments in the past where you shared good news only to get shot down or shushed; “Can’t you see this isn’t the time?” Afraid of seeming insensitive to those who don’t feel as lucky, perhaps you ceased sharing your good fortunes altogether for fear of rejection.
Other times, with everything going on in the world, it can feel trite or even meaningless to survey what you have with love while so many suffer. Sort of like, a gratitude version of survivor’s guilt.
Maybe we have a hard time being grateful because of the uncomfortable truth that while we say our affirmations and take our morning grounding breaths, world news keeps us all abreast of war and suffering in different parts of the world. With social media, we’re seeing war close-up and inundated with information both real and fake, while everyone is shouting at you to take a side. From the most human perspective, the side we need seems easy – to move forward with as little trauma and pain as possible from here on out.
It can feel hard to take in that reality and give it space alongside your own. It almost takes a dissonance of sorts – holding space for two extremely different realities simultaneously. Often, other people’s misfortunes have been used at one point or another to try to make us feel more grateful. “Eat your veggies; there’s starving kids all over the world.”
If you overthink it, that tends to stop working. “How will me eating this eggplant help a kid in Uganda?”
At its root, it’s supposed to make us appreciate that at least we’ve got something – which is better than nothing. But at what point does this appreciation turn into gnawing discomfort as time and time again, others in the world suffer while we’ve got it pretty decent?
Whereas we usually associate ungratefulness with obliviousness, lack of awareness or entitlement, sometimes a lack of gratitude can also come from not believing we deserve anything good. Why us? Why do we get to have a nice, happy home while others just like us get displaced?
In many ways, the sweet spot with gratitude requires getting to the place where you’re aware of your blessings, but not comparing yourself to anyone else – both to those who have more than you OR those who have less.
The root of “Gratitude”
The word has origins in both the Latin word gratus, which means pleasing or thankful, as well as the Latin word gratia – grace, graciousness, gracefulness. Gratia, or grace, has come to be defined by some theological schools as an “unearned gift from God.”
Regardless of spirituality or religion, this means that as far back as our modern history of language, there has existed a duality of blessings and the unearned – simply a gracious gift.
It also means part of having gratitude is accepting this unearned gift, sans guilt. Feeling like you’re worthy of receiving it.
This time of year, we usually reflect on the ride and everyone who’s been a part of it. We say our thanks and attend our gatherings, but despite the festive flurry, how much are we really letting ourselves feel?
How much is performative gratitude because we’re so dang busy, and how much is true gratitude?
In the law of attraction, to attract more of what you want to grow in life, it helps to consciously put yourself into the energy of that which you want to expand. Feel it, see it, smell it into existence. Know that you’ve already got it; you’ve got everything you need.
Finding the space and gratitude within yourself for what you already have is the only way to attract more – or even notice when it comes.
Rather than focusing on the need, the lack, the what-you-don’t-have, reframing your perspective around what you already do have invites a vastly different energy. It allows the energy we seek to flow more freely towards us and through us because we have shown that we’re a good, clean channel for it. We’re ready to accept the blessings coming our way.
When we ignore our gratitude or stuff it down with guilt, we’re not only not helping anyone else, but we’re actively blocking off our own access to invite more.
In the end, there’s no sense in sliding into guilt or shame; these emotional spaces truly have no use and they’re not productive. They don’t help solve the problem or even provide an actionable solution. They distract us from our goals by giving us a wealth of material to ruminate over, second guessing ourselves and our worth or purpose in the collective. Shame and guilt can be both small and big, but neither finds itself conducive to a positive, helpful outcome.
If the root of your guilt does stem from feeling like you should help people, then attracting more abundance into your life will only put you into a better position to do so.
Don’t waste your time needlessly in shame or guilt; if you feel bad for not helping others, do it. Find ways to activate your resources. Do it to whatever degree you can. If you can’t financially afford to sustainably help others, don’t, and be grateful that you have enough for yourself.
But don’t feel guilty for having what you do have. The guilt isn’t helping you, but it certainly does not help anybody else.