Gratitude is a Tricky Thing

Gratitude is a feeling we get when we recognize and feel the delight in all we have going for us in life, right? Well, if you are practicing materialistic, conditional gratitude, then yes it is. Read on for a different perspective.

The process of trying to find reasons to feel gratitude, is already a signal something needs to shift within you. Yes, I said it here, something needs to shift internally, not externally.

Ever since the New Age community started the trend of manifestation through gratitude practices, having “gratitude” has become quite trendy in many already rather wealthy or comfortable communities on this planet. Somehow recognizing all your wealth and privilege, and ways you can control the conditions in life to create ideal and comfortable outcomes, has become synonymous with creating the conditions to feel grateful.

I am calling a spade a spade. In these communities the concept of “gratitude” is usually viewed as a materialistic, conditional state, entangled with an expectation that you are in the process of receiving/gaining, more, and are somehow increasingly more in control of the external factors in your life that you might prefer. In other words, gratitude is practiced with a great amount of attachment to outcome, as well as another way to attempt to be in control of your own life and destiny.

In America there is an expectation that to be grateful, we must keep moving “forward”, in whatever way we define as the process of moving “forward”. This idea of moving “forward”, usually has embedded within it a whole lot of entitlement and expectation that one should be continuing to become more in control of their life and their future, and wealthy in all ways. This expectation of wealth in every way possible, especially pertains to our desire to be abundant in health, great appearance, social standing, political aptitude and representation, financially and asset-wise. And, if we don’t move “forward” and gain this wealth, we are somehow moving backwards, or are “stuck”, and we pity ourselves, and expect pity and compassion from others. We might even consider it rude for someone to tell us we should be grateful while in this position, because clearly, we are a victim, and thus not capable of gratitude, or are perhaps let off the hook for still needing to be accountable for generating the unconditional state of gratitude in our own lives.

This conditional gratitude is even encouraged and socially sanctioned as a meditative “practice” or lifestyle, for those who already have a lot, or might be defined as “privileged”, and are constantly in the process of getting more. These privileged people, who for whatever reason are experiencing “success” by societal standards, are “empowered”, and allegedly have a reason to be grateful. Their gratitude practice is celebrated when these individuals do it. In fact, these individuals are related to as gurus, as they have clearly discovered the “secret” to a successful life, that is portrayed as having very little, if any, suffering.

What is seen as surprising and subversive is when people who do not fit the cultural model of living a life that warrants gratitude, are yet still happily glowing with their own form of gratitude. We may view them as off the hook for accountability to feeling gratitude, or even expect them to act the part of disempowered and miserable. We see them as granted the right to not be grateful, because they struggle, have been victimized, and lack the privilege and resources to control everything and maintain the lifestyle display of the “gratitude life”. The subversive nature of the gratitude in these truly grateful groups of people, are that their gratitude is not conditioned upon anything or anyone, and especially not on the socially constructed life that warrants “gratitude”.

Their gratitude is seen as suspect. They might be criticized, or viewed as stupid or ignorant for not expecting more from life in order to feel gratitude. In the minds of those who view gratitude from a more materialistic, conditional state, people who feel unconditioned gratitude are even questioned for their mental health, as they must be delusional. There is a desire to find the logical fallacies or imperfections in the gratitude lived by this subversively grateful person. Those who are practicing conditioned gratitude, may even attempt to give unsolicited advice to these unconditionally grateful people, in how to manifest more, so they don’t need to force their self to be happy with a life they don’t actually want, because, how could the person actually be grateful if life isn’t even close to perfect?

Why don’t we just believe and honor those who are unconditionally grateful? Why not actually engage them with curiosity about how they experience life this way, despite so many challenges?

So, in this vein, what would it be like if you were completely honest with yourself today, about how you experience gratitude in your own life? Are you someone who fits closer to the materialistic, conditional side of the spectrum, or the unconditional side? For those of you practicing materialistic, conditional gratitude, how might you and your life change if you moved further towards unconditional gratitude? And, what beliefs do you have that prevent you from going in that direction? Are these beliefs helpful to you, or are they true?

I believe honestly asking yourself these questions could lead you to a much more grateful, and overall happier life.

I will leave you with those questions, and wish you a good day, that is unconditionally good, independent of what happens to or for you!


Coach. Psychologist. Writing about new perspectives, love, relationships, Narcissism, healing, transformation, & culture.

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