7 Enemies of Gratitude

Gratitude is to the health and happiness of our heart, as a protective ground cover is to the health and happiness of a beautiful garden.

Sometimes the wellbeing of the garden is threatened by enemies such as weeds, weather and debris. Just like a garden has enemies, gratitude also has enemies. Destructive habits.

It’s common for us to develop certain habits that are opposed to a spirit of thankfulness. These habits, like the weeds and rubble in a garden, need to be rooted out, dug up and tossed out in order for gratitude to flourish in the garden of our lives.

These 7 bad habits, self-pity, complaining, comparing, isolation, pace, entitlement attitude, lack of sleep, are enemies of gratitude.

Self-pity –

Self- pity is that deadly self –talk that leads us to feel sorry for ourselves. Self-pity sounds like this, “Poor me…. my kids are so difficult, my family doesn’t care about me, or my husband is never home, I have it so hard, I never have enough time for myself, or my boss doesn’t appreciate me, or I never get any help, or we don’t have enough money. Poor me, I have it so hard because…..you fill in the blank

Self- pity prevents us from being grateful because all we see is the negative. We get so focused on the negative that we forget to look at what is good and beautiful in our lives.

Complaining –

Complaining is really just verbalizing our self -pity!

Think about it the next time you complain, isn’t it just a different way to say “poor me”? When left unchecked, self –pity can develop into the destructive habit of complaining.

Pick any part of your life. Are there things worth complaining about?  Maybe….But does it help?!

Like self-pity, complaining prevents us from being grateful because, when we complain, we turn away from the blessings in our lives and hyper focus on the negative.

Comparing –

There is a formula for comparing and it goes like this,  First– look at another person, family or situation and make assumptions based on what we think we see.  Second– measure ourselves, and our lives against that perception. Third– feel inadequate, inferior, incompetent or whatever negative feeling you like.

Comparing sounds like this, “They have a perfect marriage…We should be able to have a perfect marriage. Their kids are so respectful and well behaved…Our kids should be that respectful and well behaved. They have a new car…We should be able to have a new car. Her house is perfectly decorated… I can’t have anyone over because mine doesn’t look like that. She is always so put together…Why can’t I look like that?

Comparing ourselves to others blocks gratitude because we are so focused on other people and what we don’t have or don’t measure up to, that we miss the blessings, gifts and talents in our own lives.

Isolation –

Isolation is very easy to achieve in this age of technology. Computers, iPads, smart phones, text, email, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. all give us the false impression that we are connected.

But, the truth is with all the devices and programs available to us today, we could very easily move through our lives taking care of our physical needs without seeing or speaking to a single person!

Isolation blocks gratitude because it creates a “self-vacuum”. It’s hard to recognize the gifts in our lives if we are constantly looking inward.

Pace –

The pace of our lives as a block to gratitude is a tricky one since we live in a culture where being “busy” has taken on a ‘god-like” status. How can we appreciate and be grateful for the little things when, we’re moving so fast we can’t even see the little things!

The other day I observed this struggle with pace first hand. I was at a local coffee shop, when I woman rushed in and hurriedly ordered a yummy coffee treat. While the toasty hot beverage was being created she told the clerk, that she felt she deserved a special treat since she had been on the run since the wee hours of the morning! Before we knew it, she was gone, dashing off to her next obligation, without even taking a minute to savor the treat she had just purchased.

How much sweeter could that latte have been, had she taken the time to sit and savor the moment? How often do we rush around trying to “get it all in”, only to find that we have lost our peace and forgotten what’s important?

Often times our schedules are so full that we barely have time to think at all, let alone think about the things we should be grateful for! In order to count our blessings we actually have to take the time to think about what they are!

Entitlement Attitude –

Entitlement is the general attitude of feeling as though we “deserve” whatever it is we want. Entitlement can also be a way of justifying many things in our lives.  It sounds something like this, “After all, I work hard and I am a good person, I deserve it”, or “I don’t do anything for myself”….”So I deserve this”.

Entitlement can be sneaky because when we work hard, we want to enjoy the fruit of our labor, or treat ourselves for a job well done. It is a slippery slope that is hard to back out of.

The “I deserve it” attitude is dangerous because it sucks the need for thankfulness out of any gift or circumstance. If we think we deserve it, it’s not a gift or blessing. If it’s not a gift or blessing then what is there to be thankful for?

Lack of sleep

I think lack of sleep is closely related to the pace we keep. We run so hard and have committed to so many obligations, we sacrifice sleep in order to keep up!

Sacrificing sleep eventually leads to exhaustion and when we are exhausted we don’t feel well physically or mentally. An ugly negative fog, driven by the lack of sleep, tends to roll in and distort every facet of our lives.

Lack of sleep is an enemy of gratitude because when we are tired we tend to see things as bigger, more difficult, and more urgent than they really are.

In order to nurture gratitude in our lives the first thing we need to do is, yank out all the weeds. Become aware of, and root out, all those bad habits that block our ability to see the beautiful gifts and blessings in our life.

The second step toward happiness is to plant and nurture the “ground cover” of gratitude in our lives.

In my next post, I’ll share some ways we can cultivate the ground cover of gratitude in the garden of our lives.

In the meantime ponder these 7 bad habits. Have any of them taken root in your life? Becoming aware of the “weed” or bad habit is the first step to rooting it out!