What Good Is Gratitude When the World Is Tearing Apart?

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About Kelly Flanagan

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Wheaton, IL. He writes and blogs regularly about life, love, and community at his blog, UnTangled. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.


  1. OirishM says:

    I’m currently working through some issues and gratitude has definitely come up in the groups I’m attending.

    But I’m also aware that I have a problem with constantly comparing myself to others. I can’t seem to figure out how to do the former without falling into the pitfall of the latter.

    Erm…..yeah, “help”, I guess. ;)

    • Olrish, I trust the people who know you most intimately will be able to give you the most sound advice. What you say resonates with me, though. Whenever I try to base my gratitude on comparison, it’s transient, because before you know it, you end up on the wrong side of the comparison. It seems like gratitude must be rooted in something deeper than circumstance and comparison, but in a rich sense of appreciation of life in general, all the good and the bad, and the awareness that we’ve done nothing to earn any of it and the only thing we can do to ruin it is to not attend to it deeply.

      • OirishM says:

        Appreciate the reply, Kelly. I’m not against making these changes to my mental habits, I simply don’t know what to substitute them with. Not engaging in them feels like it leaves a vacuum in my mind. It’s just a bit of a weird feeling.

        Optimistic, though – early days for me in terms of dealing with these problems, and I trust I’ll be making progress on that front soon :)

  2. Nothing Man says:

    Great post, Doc. Was not aware of “gratitude journals, or how to “practice gratitude.” In my line of work (firefighting), the times I thought I’d breathed my last breath sure made me grateful for all the minutes, hours and days that I’ve been given afterwards. Everything becomes brighter, sweeter, more beautiful (even a sh–hole tenement in the South Bronx) when you’re able to walk away alive when you didn’t think you would make it. I’d like to call it “greater spiritual acuity.”

    These experiences compound. You get up in the morning, reach to the heavens (even if it’s raining out) and say, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.” After a while, as the experiences add up, all the worldly things that seem so important are petty, silly, insignificant. You end up with a lot greater perspective on what is REALLY important in life. As one of the guys in my house likes to say, “every day above ground is a good day.” How could it not be?

    In my Christian tradition, the clergymen teach us that when you suffer a setback, you double count your blessings. That’s real gratitude, borne of its mother – humility. Thanks again for providing the proper perspective on gratitude.

    • First of all, thank you for your service and sacrifice! And second, you make an important point. In mindfulness and gratitude traditions there is a saying, “Remember, if you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you.” It’s an acknowledgment of the preciousness of life itself, despite its circumstances. That becomes more vividly clear after near catastrophes like you describe, but the practice of gratitude is intended to help this reality take root in us at all times. Blessings to you on your journey toward that kind of awareness!

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