Gratitude in the Rough PlaceBy Nannette S. Funderburk, PhD, LPCS / December 24, 2020
Have you ever heard the words “Be grateful” when you feel life could not be worse? Does it make you want to roll your eyes when people start to talk about gratitude journals and lists? Feeling grateful in the rough place is a lot like forgiveness (another concept that gets an eye-roll from many). It’s not about forgetting what was done or excusing what happened. It’s about knowing that there are difficulties and still choosing where your focus will go so that you are not stuck in the rough place.
Currently, most of us are exhausted. We are tired of the pandemic, tired of the vaccine, tired of politics, tired of work or lack thereof, tired of shutdowns and talks of shutdowns. We are tired of sickness, tired of death, tired of fear, tired of anger, tired of sadness, simply put, we are tired of being tired. Then randomly you see someone else’s positive situation. Someone gets a job, someone pulls through COVID when the opposite was looming, someone graduates, you see the holiday lights that look so beautiful, the relaxation on someone’s face when they get a break for the holidays, or some other random positive thing, and you become overcome with emotion. In past times, you may have seen these good things and felt angry or even envious, because if good things are going to happen, “Why can’t they happen to me!” But unexpectedly, you find yourself smiling or tearing up because the situation touched your heart. You know your life is not going the way that you would like but there was a hope connection in those moments. A tinge of hope is inspired in you after seeing a reminder that there is still good in the world. That, right there, is what we are looking to find. That is gratitude in the rough place. We know that our lives are far from perfect but acknowledging the existence of good allows us to take the next baby step forward. If we keep taking the baby steps, eventually, we arrive at our next destination in life.
To move forward, we have to balance hardship and gratitude. Expressing or living in gratitude does not mean acting as if the hardship never existed, quite the contrary. The key is we have to acknowledge the hardship in the same way you look in the rearview mirror when driving. It is actually imperative that we pay attention to what is in the rearview if we want to move forward safely. However, we cannot stare at the rearview. That lack of focus on what is in front of us will be too distracting. We have to acknowledge hardship for what it is in the same way that we glance at the rearview. Not acknowledging it and accounting for its impact on your forward motion is an accident waiting to happen. The major focus, however, must be the gratitude, because focus on it guides us to our next best step.
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