Sunday journalling prompt
Whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving, it is undeniably the season when the word ‘gratitude’ floats around our digital spaces like a flurry of autumn leaves. Over dinner with friends this week, we even tried out a little exercise in voicing our thankfulness, taking turns around the table. It sat awkwardly with our Englishness; the sole American among us had to prompt us, one by one, as we blushed and stammered over this brash act of sincerity. We were all grateful for one thing or another, but we were also unaccustomed to saying it out loud. The British aversion to be seen as bragging - even if we’re just saying we like our pets - runs deep.
Gratitude is a good thing, the foundation of a contented life. I worry, though, that it has become another part of the flatness of contemporary life. We are told, all the time, that we should feel grateful in order to be happy and that, conversely, if we are unable to express gratitude at any given moment, that we are holding ourselves back. I have a problem with this enforced gratitude. It rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of how thankfulness works. Undoubtedly, we feel happy when we are authentically grateful, but enforced gratitude is a very bitter taste indeed. We seem to find it harder than ever to admit that some situations are more gratitude-inducing than others.