30 Days of Thanks, but No Thanks

I’m glad you have things to be thankful for, honestly, but could you kindly shut up? Nobody likes a humblebraggart.

logo for 30 days of thanksYes, with the start of November last Friday, it’s time once again for 30 Days of Thanks (or sometimes 30 Days of Thanksgiving). I cringed when the first posts started popping up on Facebook over the weekend, though I’m glad that as it turns out, only about half a dozen people on my feed are participating this year. Being grateful for what you have is wonderful, but conspicuous gratitude can be a slap in the face to friends who may not have the same things.

  • Before you brag about what a wonderful husband or wife you have, think about your friends who may be struggling through marital strife, divorce, or abuse. Think about your friends who are widowed, can’t legally marry the person they love, or who still haven’t found the right person and are feeling the Forever Alones.
  • Before you brag about what wonderful children you have, think about your friends who are having fertility problems or who have had miscarriages. Think about your friends who desperately want kids but can’t afford them.
  • Before you brag about your fantastically supportive family, think about your friends who are estranged from their families, have had recent deaths in the family, or who simply live too far away for them to be as involved in their day-to-day lives as they’d like.
  • Before you brag about your lovely home, think about your friends who are living in too-small spaces or with relatives because they can’t afford the things you can.
  • Before you brag about how much you love and are fulfilled by your job, think about your friends who are unemployed or stuck in jobs that they hate because of the crappy economy.
  • Before you brag about your health, think about your friends who are sick or uninsured.

I have no problem with people being thankful for the good things in their lives. Studies have shown over and over that expressing gratitude can be good for your mental health. Many therapists advise their patients to keep gratitude journals. But I fundamentally disagree with the assertion that you should put that gratitude on display in order to make your friends feel better too. From the website that started it all:

Truly, being thankful is enough. Sharing it via social media or in some other way is a gift to the world, because there are so very many people (we bet you know a lot of them!) who really struggle with giving thanks for the things that they have, or the people or events in their lives. Modeling being thankful is a way to gift them because as you share what you’re thankful for, you shine a light—a light that tells others that it’s OK for them to be thankful, too.

Making other people feel resentful or inadequate because they don’t have the fabulous life you have isn’t shining a light on them. For friends who are having a rough time, especially those who suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, your performative gratitude can plunge them into the darkness. And of course, people are perfectly free to write whatever they want on their personal social media pages, but I wish sometimes they’d go one step further and realize just how lucky they really are. You shouldn’t feel bad because you’re better off, but you shouldn’t make other people feel bad. Be thankful, but please, please, keep it to yourself.

(Image via 30daysofthanks.com)

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[E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

9 thoughts on “30 Days of Thanks, but No Thanks”

  1. Yesss. I mean, gratitude is good, but publicizing your gratitude often feels like “scolding” anyone who’s not grateful enough. Or maybe it’s just the people I know who tend to do 30 Days. I’m all about remembering the awesome things in life, not so much about condescension.

    I also hated the “everyone say what you’re thankful for” in school/church/family settings. It always felt like a trick question.

    1. I seriously had to double check that quote because I was like, “Is this REAL?!” I used to have a friend who was so about this. She was great; we were just different people. She was very much one of those “look on the sunny side of life” people and seemed to have a lot of good things happen to her all of the time. Which was great, but sometimes it was difficult to have conversations with her because I felt guilty about displaying any sort of negativity about anything. That’s not her fault, of course. But, your article made me think about that, about just keeping in mind that not all people are in places where they’re feeling super thankful and positive, and that’s okay and totally valid. Great response to this 30 days of thanks meme.

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