How Strong is Your Gratitude Muscle?

” I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.”

This was one of my dad’s favorite sayings and I remember hearing it often throughout my childhood.  These words, and the accompanying visual image, sure could make an impact on an eight-year-old. All of the sudden my protests for the ridiculously overpriced Cabbage Patch doll didn’t seem so important. My dad’s dramatically worded lesson about gratitude became etched in my mind and heart, and I appreciate what he taught me about being grateful.  I am sure we can all agree that the days of crying at the toy store are behind us; but, in many ways, it seems like the tendency to want more and to compare our lives to others has only intensified.  Many of us find ourselves comparing our bodies, our bank accounts, our love lives…. Gratitude sometimes finds itself rattling around in the back of my mind, covered by layers of “but, I want more…”

I recently heard someone speak about gratitude and he likened it to a muscle – a muscle that, when used, grows stronger and, when neglected, begins to atrophy.  I think this is a great way to think about gratitude.  And, honestly, my gratitude muscle could probably benefit from more exercise.  I mean, of course I am grateful for countless things in my life and I’m sure you are, too.  But, how much time do we spend paying attention to that muscle?  Gratitude can be difficult when the “I’m tired” muscle, the “she is annoying me” muscle and the “life isn’t being very fair” muscle are screaming for our attention. Have you seen those guys who walk around the gym with huge chests, bulging biceps and teeny tiny legs?  They are choosing to only exercise the muscles at the top of their body and, as a result, they look a little out of balance, don’t they?  Maybe we should think about our thoughts the same way.  Which muscles are we working?  Which ones get our attention?  Which muscles are we showing to others?  Are our gratitude muscles teeny tiny compared to our grouchy muscles?

Last week I was at gathering where the attendees were encouraged to talk about a moment or situation where they felt a great sense of gratitude.  The group grew awkwardly silent.  I was shocked. This was in stark contrast to the previous meetings where we all spoke freely and openly about our weaknesses, our struggles…our complaints.  I’ll admit I had a hard time verbalizing my experiences of gratitude with the group.  It felt hokey or embarrassing for some reason.  I would have much rather shared something about myself that needed improvement or some grievance I had with a neighbor or the traffic in Austin.  How interesting that the opportunity to express sheer joy and gratitude about an experience in our life left many of us sheepish and tongue-tied!

A friend of mine recently started posting an expression of gratitude on Facebook every day.  The last time I checked, she was up to 92 posts.  I’ve been admiring her entries from afar – impressed with her positivity, but even more amazed by her vulnerability.  Isn’t it strange how it feels so much scarier to share something heartfelt, personal and purely positive than it is to gripe about the long line at the grocery store or the mess the kids have made of the house?

I have been so impressed with my friend’s gratitude exercise that I’ve asked her to share with us here on Girl, Get Your Roots Done! how this experience has impacted her life.  In a few days we’ll hear from Kali as she celebrates her 100th day of gratitude posts.  And, we’ll cheer her on as she marches toward her goal of 365 days!

As we think about our exercise routines this week, let’s think about which muscles we want to use.  There’s no doubt that the ones we choose will get stronger and more powerful – so we better choose wisely.

Girl, I am so grateful for you.  Thank you for reading.

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