Every time I open Facebook, people are posting what they are thankful for. And it’s making me crabby.
Call me the grinch of Thanksgiving. Yes, I KNOW I should be grateful. I have a great life. (In fact, one of the arguments that convinced me more than 10 years ago to give anti-depressants a try was when my dear husband said to me, “Amy, our lives are too good for you to be missing it.”) And I know that rewiring our brains to be grateful takes discipline and practice, and that gratitude makes us happier. Yes, I’ve done all that research, and read all those books. But. I’m still feeling crabby.
I suspect my lack of gratitude right now is related to envy. Apparently, our brains are more easily tripped toward envy the more alike we are to the person accomplishing what we wish we were accomplishing. And so when I hear that another pastor just received her second book contract, and she has 3 small kids and serves a church, well, I can’t help it. I”m not excited for her; I”m envious. When I hear that the new pastor at the Presbyterian Church my neighbors attend has challenged them to give half a million dollars and they are likely to get that, and that church is the exact same size as the one I serve, and the gap this year between our significantly smaller budget and the financial commitments is greater than ever, well, there’s no gratitude for the good work of that church. There’s just weariness on my part. Yes. I know. As a Christian minister, I should know better, I should do better, I should have more faith. I should set a better example. But.
Guess what? Our brains don’t respond well to shaming. It feels bad, and then our brains are consumed with doing whatever it takes to make the pain go away RIGHT NOW (chocolate, anyone?) instead of spending longer-term energy on the creativity and problem solving and rewiring it takes to do better.
So, what’s a person trying to be good and do good to do? Well, envy feels bad; gratitude feels good. Envy comes easily; right now gratitude comes hard, or hardly. I’ve started skipping everyone’s daily gratitude postings. Reading them makes it hard for me to breathe. Instead, I’m saying, “there, there,” to the sweet little crabby eeyore that insists on living inside my heart. And I’m trusting that if I quit yelling at her to shape up and be grateful because it’s NOVEMBER and EVERYONE ELSE IS GRATEFUL, that her true fear of not being good enough will be calmed. And in case you are now thinking, “how selfish!” remember this: Those same super-highways embedded in my brain that makes it so easy to judge me also make it easy for me to judge you. So learning to be kind to the crab in me helps me be less judgmental and kinder to the crab in you. Unless I’m the only crab in the world? Hmm. I didn’t think so.