I don’t mean to be the grinch who ruined a good Facebook ‘thing’, but I’ve been conflicted about so many of my friends’ participation in the “30 Days of Thankfulness” status update extravaganza.
If you haven’t seen it, each day in November, you are supposed to name one thing for which you are thankful.
I don’t think I’ll be participating.
To clarify, I’m a big fan of being thankful.
I certainly try to live my life in gratitude and always be aware of my blessings. I’m thankful for things big and small. From the Grace and Mercy of God (which counts as a BIG thing to me) to the way my cat curls up on the bed ( a small but joyful image),
I actively try to pay attention to blessing, in part because if I’m thinking of gratitude, I tend to bitch less about the annoyances of life.
Thankfulness is biblical. Scriptures are chock full of illustrations of people offering praise to God. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Psalm 139:
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.
And I certainly prefer 30 Days of Thankfulness to 30 Days of Whining, Gritching, or Boring.
You’re probably wondering why, then, if I’m such a fan of being thankful, would I be opposed to the Facebook exercise?
I think it is the public display of thankfulness that gives me pause. I certainly don’t think we need to only be grateful in silence. But often what one person intends to be a status update of gratitude sounds to another person like a status update of interminable bragging.
And I am probably already guilty of that more than I’d like to be.
Celebrating the awesomeness of my children can be a full time job, for example. (Just let me know if you’d like me to elaborate...) But how do those updates about soccer tournaments and Cross Country meets sound for my friends who might read those posts and wish they had children and weren’t battling with infertility? Or what about my friends who have had a child die in a car accident or from cancer? Or a friend whose child is struggling with addiction, or learning disabilities, or whatever?
How does my public thankfulness impact my friends? Does it lead them to thankfulness in their own life? Or just make them feel depressed?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be able to share our good news with each other. But I know the holidays are difficult for many people and wonder how all of this public display of thankfulness will play into that.
We seek to find balance when we pray in church. We celebrate both the birth of new babies and we pray for the woman struggling with infertility.
We celebrate marriages as we also pray for those in the midst of divorce or loss.
We celebrate marriages as we acknowledge marriage is not the only way to live a full and complete life.
We celebrate someone’s remission as we also pray with those facing recurrence.
When I was pregnant with Alden, one of my friends was also pregnant, and due at almost the same time. She miscarried that child early on. But she was there with me as mine continued. And she celebrated with me at his birth. And I mourned with her at her loss. Her presence in my celebration was a gift to me.
It is a part of living in community–to support each other in celebration and in loss–and to help each other find reasons to be thankful in all of those moments.
So maybe as we do 30 Days of Thankfulness, we also need 30 Days of something else. Lament, maybe?
Or maybe we need 30 Days of Brutal Honesty, because sometimes all the thankfulness/bragging makes it seem our lives our perfect, when, in fact, we know that isn’t the case.
We rarely see facebook posts like:
“I love my daughter and her completely mediocre report card”.
“We screamed at each other a lot in our house this morning.”
“I’m crippled by depression today”.
“I only post pictures in which I’m smiling, but I don’t smile all the time.”
And that’s probably for the best. I’m not sure Facebook is the best place to get help for some of those difficult moments. But I think it leaves us unbalanced some days.
So don’t stop with the Thankfulness project because of me. I’ll join you in the theory of it. And as we gather in person or in conversations over the phone, I’ll celebrate your joys and mourn your losses with you.
I’ll try not to use Facebook in a way that will cause my friends to doubt their reasons to be thankful in their own lives.
And know that I’m more than 30 days worth of thankful for you.
In response to this post, MaryAnn McKibben Dana reflected on the question too, with some good guidelines:
And just to be really clear, I’m certainly not opposed to being thankful or to practicing gratitude. If it is bringing you life, keep at it.
Thanks, everyone, for engaging with me on this topic.