When Gratitude Is Toxic

Of all our spiritual practices, the one thing we know we can depend on is gratitude, right?

WRONG.

Gratitude is indeed a blessed, beautiful, important practice, when it is sincere. But when forced, gratitude can be manipulative, toxic and a waste of time.

I spent my 20’s dating, engaged, then married to a wonderful man. This was a man who served me at every turn. He was supportive and caring. I thought I had the husband of the century. So when I felt that something was off in the relationship and developed a mysterious resentment towards him, I figured the problem had to be me.  I was convinced I just needed to become more grateful for what I had.

I wrote gratitude lists for all the qualities I loved about him, which sounds like a nice, wise, spiritual thing to do. But when it came down to it, I wasn’t writing those lists because I was grateful. I was trying to turn up the volume on “grateful”, in order to the volume down on my truth.

Ten years into the relationship, he revealed a deep betrayal that had been going on since day ONE.  Do you know what I feel grateful for now, five years later? MY INTUITION.

In this instance, gratitude caused me not to trust myself. It quieted the spiky, suspicious voice of my truth; soothing and smoothing it like a honey-voiced Professor Umbridge from the Harry Potter movies.

Gratitude was like the shrunken gel air freshener in a smelly gas station bathroom.

Genuine gratitude is of course, important. But when used to push our feelings away, gratitude can be downright toxic. (click to tweet)

An example of this from my current life is the city in which I live. I hate living in North Carolina.

There, I said it.

Am I grateful for the lessons I’ve learned here, and the wonderful people I’ve met? 100%.  Am I grateful for the river, the mountains, the crickets I hear at night? About 20%. I’m a city girl, through and through. In the words of Walt Whitman, “Keep your quiet places by the woods, give me the streets of Manhattan!”

Here’s the thing – that does not make me ungrateful.  It makes me HONEST.

In my new book Club Macaron (available now through May 31st), there is an entire chapter dedicated to this particular kind of honesty, which is what I call Vérité.

Vérité is the French word for truth, but its meaning goes deeper than one word. Vérité is the truth beneath the truth.  Vérité is not nice, nor is it mean.  It is the truth that can’t be glossed over with gratitude.  It is the truth that takes a bit longer to rise because it is not coming from the knee jerk reaction of “I’m fine.”

The moment you enroll in Club Macaron you will receive instant access to the print and PDF book with a whole chapter on Vérité (how to listen for it, speak it, and live it) as well as a members-only class on The Art of Assertiveness.

Ready to trade in forced gratitude for silver tongued truth telling?

Club Macaron is only available for a limited time, click here to join us now!

10 comments

  1. One city girl to another…. LOVE this post! Enjoying your writing and interesting to learn u r in NC. I am traveling thru NC this week on a road trip! Sohoo many trees!

  2. Wow. Thank you so much for this. I had an eerily similar experience in my former marriage and I truly appreciate your honesty – no need to cover up real feeling and intuition with niceties – it’s a lesson I’m still learning. Love your post.

  3. Confirmed and thank you!!!! I also spent too many moons trying to convince myself to appreciate what I had in my “so far from perfect” marriage. I came to the realization that being hopeful was not my friend either…it kept me in limbo…at the end of the day, you truly need to listen to yourself and do what is right for you and only you!

  4. I love This! Sometimes, I feel I push myself to be “grateful” instead of honest (classic spiritual bypass!). Great reminder that it’s okay to be honest.

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