Pretty much every day I see a new (or not so new) gratitude meme on my facebook newsfeed. You know the ones: They show starving children and ask you to think about that picture next time you complain about hardships you are facing. Today I saw one which suggested that the next time I complain about the price of petrol I should just be grateful that I have a car.
I’ve had an epiphany and I refuse to share these memes anymore!
Yes I am grateful that this is not my situation. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Now don’t get me wrong (oh come on…you know that you were going to!), I’m totally into being grateful for the things that we have. I'm even almost finished a gratitude challenge!
Here’s what I’m NOT into: Guilting people who are having a tough time right now.
Because you know what? Just because I hate brussel sprouts doesn’t mean I’m not grateful that I can afford quality fresh produce. And just because I’m bitching about my slow internet connection doesn’t mean I’m not grateful that I even have computer. It just means that brussel sprouts and slow internet suck. Yes they are first world problems but, newsflash, I live in the first world.
It's okay to complaint about brussel sprouts every now and then! Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
But let’s go a little deeper shall we? What message are these memes sending?
Well…the most extreme ones are saying: Shut up. We don’t care what hardships you are facing because, you know, others have it tougher and you should just be grateful that you are not them.
These ones aren’t just insensitive – they are dangerous.
Imagine that a friend of yours is upset, maybe even suicidal. Maybe they lost their job or can’t afford their mortgage this month or just had their partner walk out on them. Maybe they suffer from a serious mental illness. Chances are that someone, somewhere, has it tougher than them.
They are about to call you to tell you they are doing it tough and need a little help. Then they see the meme you shared and they decide that you don’t want to hear from them. They decide that they are not a good person deserving of love and care. They decide that their life actually isn’t worth anything – because they are such a horrible person that they can’t even “just be grateful”. If even their beautiful friend thinks they are just an ungrateful bastard, what hope do they have?
Maybe all they need is someone to help them troubleshoot whatever crap is happening at that moment. Maybe they need someone to remind them that they are special. And loved. And important. That the world would be lesser if they were gone from it. But you don’t get the chance to tell them. Because your facebook feed sent them a different message today. One you probably didn’t intend to send, because you love your friend and would want them to call you if they need help or just a shoulder to cry on.
Sometimes you just need a friend to listen. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I will not share anymore “just be grateful” memes. If you are doing it tough, I will listen. Kids didn’t clean their room again? I won’t tell you to “just be grateful” they are healthy and have a roof over their heads. Partner working late for the 5th night in row? No you shouldn’t “just be grateful” that he has a job.
Let’s start a new trend. One which lets people know that they are valued and loved. Even when they don’t feel loveable. Even when they are whinging and bitching about a first world problem. Even when they forget that others are doing it tougher.