Thanksgiving: Gratitude Conflict

Thanksgiving: Gratitude Conflict

Without a doubt Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. It has been since childhood. First, I love the Hallmark card family aspect. Next, I love the rugged gift of hard work that the cooks put into culinary their efforts. Finally, I do love the array of wonderful food. However, I have never, that is never…enjoyed standing on the scales the next day.

I am felling a gratitude conflict going into this year’s Thanksgiving. In my work as a psychologist there has not been a day gone by in the past month in which I am sitting with people’ s heightened sense of uncertainty, fear, and dread. To be clear, that is regardless of how people voted in the election. How well will these people be able to tap into gratitude during our national time of pause? How well will I?

If you too are struggling with gratitude conflict, I encourage you to take heart you are not alone. Of course it is easy to feel gratitude that we are not at this moment holding our dead child or grandchild, the victim of another bombing attack in Aleppo, Syria. Of course it is easy to feel grateful that we don’t have to spend our Thursday afternoon trying to uncover our neighbor caught in the rubble of the earthquake in our small Italian village. Of course it is easy to feel gratitude that we are not forced to hunt for a wild turkey in our backyard forest, not because we enjoy wild game, but because we have no money to purchase a “store-bought” bird. Of course it is easy to feel gratitude that we are not the one trying to keep heavy machinery from raping our sacred land in North Dakota, just because the good people of Bismarck don’t want an oil pipeline in their backyard, give it to the Indians.

Yes there are many things for which to be thankful. But in so doing we are rather forced to at least quietly say, “too bad for your bad luck, I am glad it is you and not me”. In actuality we are then being grateful for someone else’s plight. This is especially true if we take the pre-ordained view that “someone has to have the bad luck; better you than me”. I believe that is low-level binary superstitious thinking. Actually, it is not true that someone else needs to suffer in order for me to feel good. While many try to make our world into winners v. losers, it is not mandatory. Yes some will suffer and some will die…in fact we all will.

Rather than gloating over our good fortune, perhaps it would behoove us to be grateful for what we have this very moment. If tragedy should strike in the next moment or the one after that, we realize and accept that change is inevitable. We are always made better when we provide love, aid, and concern to those who are suffering. It allows them to experience gratitude and just as importantly it allows us to live in gratitude…conflicted or not.

Tim Berry

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