Thanks but No Thanks: Gratitude as Gimmick

Tis the season for gratitude, right? It's nearly Thanksgiving, after all. Facebook posts daily invite us to take some sort of "gratitude challenge." More than ever before we're being called, admonished even, to embrace an "attitude of gratitude." Gratitude is something everyone likes. No one is anti-gratitude.

But here's the thing: many effusive, cheerful, public expressions of gratitude annoy me.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not the Gratitude Grinch.

I've been reading about gratitude as a spiritual practice, and I have every reason to believe the many studies that show how practicing gratitude can alleviate stress, ward off depression, ease anxiety, and improve overall emotional and physical wellbeing. I even hosted my own gratitude themed reading party.

Still, sometimes the growing gratitude business makes me a little suspicious. I wonder how many of our "blessings" are in fact a result of the exploitation and suffering of others? I suspect some of what we are #grateful for, are things we should be #repenting for. I'm afraid that sometimes what we consider a "blessed life" is really just a "privileged life."

Not only that, but I'm concerned that some of these social media "gratitude challenges" become yet another means to compare, compete, and hide.

We can be so concerned with "being grateful" that we fail to hear those voices that are crying out, longing to be heard and set free. We can spend so much time cozying up with our "gratitude journal" that we forget about the equally important work of moving through the painful places in our lives and world.

I believe gratitude is a good, even necessary practice. But maybe some expressions of gratitude have a shadow side. Maybe gratitude isn't good when it's a gimmick.

Maybe, before we fully embrace that "gratitude-attitude," we need to lament.

I'm not talking about obnoxious grumbling. I'm talking about calling out to God with a real, authentic, gut-wrenching cry.

I'm not talking about insufferable whining. I'm talking about falling down on our knees and bearing the full breadth of our humanity before our Creator.

I'm not talking about cantankerous complaining. I'm talking about a radically vulnerable act of fist-shaking and tear-stained protest.

So here's the deal. I'll work on gratitude. Seriously. I'll even work on expressing it publicly and with great intention.

But when the time comes for me to give y'all a "100 days of Lament" challenge, I hope you'll consider participating. If you do, I promise, I'll be grateful.