Cultivating My (un)Grateful Heart

Cultivating My (un)Grateful Heart

My heart has grown quite disengaged and resentful of late. The world seems so harsh and unkind. Messages of hate and judgment, acts of cruelty and divisive language everywhere make it easy for me to be angry. Life’s hard anyway, but today’s climate just makes it a little harder. Or maybe it’s me and the way I interpret the climate and how I respond. Too aware of the negative and the ugly, and not aware enough of the good. My once grateful heart is now much more ungrateful.

This ingratitude of mine has permeated the way I look at my world and family. I see the small daily things through a lens of fear and concern. I’m much more protective and afraid of the what-ifs and the don’t-dos. I lie awake at night going over and over the challenges and the pains of trying to do life and I don’t sleep well. I’ve been unintentionally cultivating resentments and bitterness deeper and deeper into my heart chambers.

But the fact of the matter is, I have so much to be grateful for, even with the challenges. My life, my marriage and my family are far from perfect or even solid most days, yet there is still joy in the midst. How much of that joy do I miss every single day because I’m caught up in the lacking and the trying too hard?

Too Much Information, Too Little Joy

Almost every shelf in our house is filled with books. They’re everywhere in our bedroom. I love books and I love to learn. I enjoy reading posts online and checking out new ideas. I’m always hoping to do better and be better and live better. Part of that hoping is really good. Part of it keeps me hungry. But what often comes with that hope and hunger (what I try to fight) is an acute sense of never being or having or doing enough. Trying to always fix what could be better keeps my focus on the problems and steals any ability to be grateful. I get lost in the abundance of learning and sometimes miss what’s in my very hand.

In his book The One Thing, Gary Keller says it this way, “The unintended consequence of abundance is that we are bombarded with more information and choices in a day than our ancestors received in a lifetime. Harried and hurried, a nagging sense that we attempt too much and accomplish too little haunts our days.”

Haunts is a good word. That’s what the nagging and the questioning and the never feeling enough is like. It’s haunting. It robs me. It robs us of our joy. So while I’m grateful for the access and I’m grateful for the teachers all around me, and I appreciate the many sources of motivation, ultimately, I want more joy. I want to have more of the peace that comes from being content and not striving so hard. I want to be grateful more often and more deeply.

Finding Balance, Staying Grateful

There’s no way to tie this up in a nice little bow. There aren’t ten easy steps to cultivating a grateful heart. It’s mostly finding a balance between the learning and a focus on the doing. Learn, yes. Grow, of course. But I must also do and I must be intentional about the doing. I must choose every day to focus on cultivating a grateful heart. Choosing every day to see the good isn’t easy when you’re hurting but the good is still there, and in it is a joy that helps with the hurt.

So, I will choose to intentionally bask in the beauty of my grandkid’s smiles, to listen to the cardinal sing his whole song, and to linger over the cup of coffee shared with a good friend. I’m going to balance my areas of needed growth with the awareness that on the whole, I am enough right now. In order for me to feel to the fullest, the gifts in my every day (both big and small) I must choose to be grateful and joyful. And honestly, the thought of this new focus makes me happy.

Be sure to check out The One Thing. Stay grateful.

Kim Ferren

Kim lives in the great state of Texas with her husband of almost 40 years. They have 3 grown kids and 3 sweet grandkids, whom they enjoy being young with. She has worked as a therapist for 20 years, but has been practicing the craft of writing for about 40. She is a lover of people, experiences, and words. Having walked alongside many in their struggles and pain, and having experienced much pain and struggle in her own journey, one of her mantras has become 'see the good.' Well aware that focusing on the good does not make the bad go away, she's learned that seeing the good helps us bear the bad. There are so many things in life worth celebrating, worth fighting for and growing for, but we can't do it on our own. We need each other, in the good and the bad! One of Kim's deepest passions is to help people with the messiness of relationships, as she continues to learn in her own imperfect relationships. She's also pretty passionate about her family, weekend getaways, quiet time, reading and writing. And sleep!

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