With the holiday season upon us, we’re told to reflect on everything we’re grateful for. Gratitude differs from person to person. You might feel immensely grateful for your car — that’s alright if that’s how you really feel! Or you might feel more grateful for your significant other, or for the roof over your head. There’s no one right way to express gratitude; however, I view gratitude a little differently. That’s because I believe gratitude is a conviction.

Have you ever heard of Gratitude Training? It’s a mindfulness technique that aligns with society’s ever-popular trend of trying to better itself (especially when there’s an audience). Some Gratitude Training exercises include telling yourself affirmations such as “my life is filled with abundance and bliss” or writing down 5 different things you’re grateful for daily, no matter how trivial, like toothpaste or green grass. Don’t get me wrong — in no way am I against the idea of trying to better yourself or honor the small privileges we are awarded in life. I don’t care what you do, so long as it’s not hurting someone else, and showing gratitude is far from hurtful. My approach to gratitude brings attention to the sometimes problematic, performative nature with which some of us express gratitude.

My approach to gratitude brings attention to the sometimes problematic, performative nature with which some of us express gratitude.

We live in a virtual age. It’s never been easier to express ourselves to the world around us. It’s never been easier to constantly write online about all the little things we’re grateful for, or to post photos of ourselves volunteering, so the world knows that we’re good people. It’s never been easier to cultivate an image that we think we should have. Honestly, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, as long as your expression is genuine — as long as your expression of gratitude is devoid of agenda.

It’s never been easier to cultivate an image that we think we should have.

Believe me, I love gratitude. I really do. Where I deviate from the common approach to gratitude is in the extent of the overarching assumption that we should be grateful in abundance. Abundant gratitude is one thing but being flippant in our expression of gratitude is another thing entirely. We don’t have to always, explicitly tell the world what we’re grateful for, because the world should be able to feel it naturally.

We shouldn’t turn gratitude into a gratuitous thing, because then the actual feeling of being grateful gets lost on us. Of course, there isn’t a fine-tuned scale for deciding what we should and shouldn’t be grateful for. I’m not the judge nor jury for that decision, nor am I trying to be, so I apologize if I come off that way. Believe me, it’s way better to be grateful than ungrateful.

I just believe that we should be genuine, authentic, and intentional when we express gratitude.

It should be a warm feeling, intrinsic to the human experience almost in the same way love is. You wouldn’t say you love every person you meet; if you did, you’d water down the meaning of your love. It’s like when you come across a stranger for the first time at the bar and, a few hours and many drinks later, they tell you they love you. Whether you find them endearing or not, you don’t actually believe that they love you. So, in the same way, why diminish the meaning of your gratitude by trying to prove you’re grateful for every little thing?

We should be genuine, authentic, and intentional when we express gratitude. It should be a warm feeling, intrinsic to the human experience almost in the same way love is.

The things I’m truly grateful for are the things that truly mean something to me. I’m grateful for my kids sitting down to watch a few episodes of Wonder Years with me, and now they love it. I’m grateful for all the small things Lizzy does every day to make my life easier. 

Sometimes I write my kids little notes. Just quick scribbles of encouragement on a post-it note before I go to work, wishing them a great day, telling them that I love them or that I’m proud of them, things like that. I don’t really think about what happens to the notes after I write them.

That was until last night when I went to hug my daughter, Macie, good night. When I was leaving her room, I unintentionally glanced at her school binder on her desk., She had stuck one of the notes I’d given her behind the clear covering of the binder. The warmth I felt upon seeing that was indescribable. Seeing that note, I felt her gratitude infinitely more than if she were to tell me “thank you,” (which, of course, she did).

Gratitude is something they should feel from you. You shouldn’t have to tell somebody all the time that you’re grateful for them and the things they do — they should feel it from your behavior and actions.

When you’re truly grateful for something, you express it with your entire being and people can feel it.

But when I do voice my gratitude, I mean it. That’s because gratitude isn’t a word, it’s a conviction. When you’re truly grateful for something, you express it with your entire being and people can feel it. My kids know I’m grateful for them from the attention I give them when they’re telling me about their day. Lizzy knows I’m grateful for her from the obvious fondness that flows from me in waves upon seeing her. My friends, my family, and the other people around me know that I’m grateful from the way I behave and act in response. If they don’t feel it, then that’s on me.

Am I perfect at showing gratitude? No. I have a long way to go when it comes to expressing gratitude as often or as openly as I should. I’m working on it. But one thing that I know is that gratitude isn’t something that needs to be proven to everybody I know or explicitly stated in every conversation.

When you truly feel gratitude, the people who matter will feel it, too.

Me & my family

“I hope when you decide

kindness will be your guide

Put a little love in your heart

And the world will be a better place”

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