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"Why can't you just be grateful?"

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

There have been plenty of times in my life where I thought I “should” be happier than how I actually felt. In those moments, I looked around my life, taking in all the things I had that the world said would make me happy, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t know why. And then shame set in…

From that place of not understanding why I felt the way I did, I would quickly pile on myself: “Why can’t you just be grateful?”

Why can’t you just be grateful?

What an unkind thing to say to yourself.

Just because you’re struggling does not mean you’re ungrateful.

Yes, you finally got what you’ve prayed for – the baby you tried for years to conceive, the job that finally allows you more financial freedom, healing from illness – and also yes, it turned out to be really challenging. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel what you feel. You’re human, and God knows that.

Gratitude is not presented in the Bible as a “should.” God didn’t say to be thankful instead of feeling whatever you’re feeling, He said be thankful in the midst of what you’re feeling.

That looks more like a try-this-on-for-size-and-see-what-it-does-for-you encouragement.

We can’t get to gratitude by shaming ourselves, it only pushes us further away – from God and from what’s True about us.

Here’s what you can try instead:

Show yourself compassion. Instead of shaming yourself, try showing yourself kindness and understanding. Sit in what you’re feeling without shaming yourself and without trying to suppress it. Acknowledge that what you’re going through is challenging and you’re suffering. Place your hand lovingly on the part of your body where you feel discomfort and remind yourself, this is hard. Also, it’s important to realize suffering and imperfection are part of being human (you are not alone!).

Take an awe walk. Get out of your head and into nature. There is a reason we connect so deeply with nature – because God created the earth as a gift for us. So, get outdoors and practice curiosity. Look for hidden beauty in your surroundings, even if they are familiar. Awe has all sorts of benefits, and grounding yourself in nature can right-size your relationship to God, reminding you who is God and who is not (ahem, read that again if you struggle with control).

Pray. Instead of turning inward when you’re struggling, turn Godward. Don’t allow any “shoulds” to come in between you and God. He knitted you by hand, designing not only every physical feature, but every emotional idiosyncrasy. It’s all been accounted for in His grand plan for your life, and your humanity does not disappoint Him. So, pour it all out before Him and ask for what you need.

Each of these options can be a bridge to gratitude – a destination that is good for us and will better equip us to navigate uncertainty and difficult situations.

We can’t control every thought that pops into our minds, but we do have agency over our thought life. When you feel yourself slipping into a shame pattern (where the voice in your head is talking about you), take action.

Need help? This is the work I do with women – helping them make space in their busy lives to better understand their thoughts, take back control and step into what’s True so that they can live the life God created them for. Book a chat here, and we can talk it out and discuss how coaching can help.

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