Honest gratitude

Trying to induce the feeling of gratitude in our kids, especially by comparison, is not sustainable. It’s even dangerous.

I read  this idea in an article recently and I let it sink in. It totally makes sense. I don’t remember ever comparing myself to others as a kid. The article says that as we keep forcing an attitude of gratitude from the outside, we prepare our kids to become little Pharisees who give thanks to God for not being like the others, or for having enough compared to others. 

When you put it like that, it really kicks you in the stomach.

One should enter in the relationship with God, and feel what she/he feels, fully and completely, and bring it to the cross. 

If you try to convince a parent to enjoy the present, when the kids are hyperactive and demanding, when you are split in a million directions, gratitude and delight  in the present won’t come natural. That is not to say that we should slide into despair and frustration and camp there. 

We find ourselves in a dull comfortability. In order to emerge, just like a seed, I need physical discomfort. Waking up early, walking through the snow, cleaning the house, washing windows… 

Kids are physically soft these days… and they don’t even know it’s detrimental to their growth. 

Towards the end of November, beginning of December, I started feeling increasingly irritated, tired of routine, worried, anxious, frustrated… all the unpleasant feelings. I am strong willed, and I thought I could will myself into positivity and patience. But Conrad visually described how he feels: “Taking a stroll on a cliff, comfortably safe and not near the edge, feeling almost joyous and calm. All of a sudden, our daughters comes running towards him, bodychecking and pushing him over the edge. He did not see it coming.” 

I have read so many psychology books, and I know the theory so well. I immerse into the Bible, I am part of a few support groups… Conrad is available to step in, my parents live nearby to help if we need… and yet I let myself slide into negative feelings. I was trying to draw my determination to set boundaries from my raw emotions.   

After setting my mind numerous times to be more patient, to step away when I feel my emotions are wrangled, when the kids hang onto me, and my mind is burdened with endless to do lists… as I failed again and again to remain calm and joyous, I felt like a failure. I could not do it by myself. Climb out and stay out of the pit. 

Reading Isaiah with my international bible study, something clicked. And I called my anger by its name. Sin. I confessed it to God, to my husband, to my bible study class, my adoptive moms bookclub. And I gained freedom. True freedom. I detached myself from it. Trying to induce the feeling of gratitude based on what I have, now compared to others years, or compared to others, didn’t do it for me. It felt dry, empty, useless. I needed to come to God, and stay in His presence without justifications and other blame shifting. We are broken. We are in desperate need of a savior. But we are God’s beloved children as well. Accept grace so you could extend grace. 

It is such a comfortable place to start from, the lowest point, where we cling onto God, and confess our heart and let him lift us up and embrace us. The solution was not to be more stoic, calm collected and distant. The sustainable solution was to pull my sleeves up and love wholeheartedly in the messy days. The best gift my parents gave me was the honesty with which they dealt with the wide range of emotions. 

Kids still push boundaries, they have bad days, they offload their fears and crap on me, they are frustrated with life, pandemic, medical issues, distant schooling, but there is room for discussion. And as I see the growth from the hard days, I can’t help but be grateful for the challenges as well. 

Let’s not induce feelings of gratitude. Let’s name the feelings we do feel, and bring them to the Cross so God can help us sort them out.