A couple of years ago I took the Strength Finders assessment, a personality test that measures your ability in 35 key areas and then determines your top 5 strengths. One of my top 5 was the “restorative” strength. I learned that people with this strength have a strong growth mindset. They are great at identifying flaws and finding ways to solve complex problems. While I do think that this strength can be used for good, it also comes with some frustrating baggage. From my experience, restorative people also tend to be perfectionistic people. This is very true in my own life. Although externally I can seem positive and optimistic, inwardly I can be critical and fault-finding. It’s easy for me to see all that’s wrong and needs to be fixed, while glossing over all that is good and right. As a result, gratitude does not come very easily to me.
Recently I’ve been devouring the work of Brene’ Brown. She is a research professor who studies concepts like shame, vulnerability, and courage. I recently finished her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” and I can honestly say it’s the best book I’ve read all year. I especially gleaned a lot from her chapter on gratitude. She suggests that gratitude is not an attitude, but rather a practice. This idea is so simple, but is also deeply encouraging for me. As someone who’s very personality is to see all that is wrong, mustering up an “attitude of gratitude” feels nearly impossible. However, I love the idea of viewing gratitude as a practice, something that can be developed over time through daily action.
A practical way that I’ve been doing this is through journaling. I’ve started making daily lists of “evidences of grace”. I chose the term “evidences of grace” because it helps me to thank God for even the smallest blessings- an act of kindness, making it through a challenging situation, or even just a moment of connection with someone. This practice has been changing the way I encounter my everyday life. I’m realizing that God’s grace is all around me. I just often neglect to see it. I’ve started to look forward to this practice and often find myself making mental lists of God’s grace throughout the day, storing them up in my mind so that I can write about them later.
Most importantly, I’m discovering that gratitude brings joy. Perfectionism breeds anxiety and negativity, but gratitude results in a deep sense of contentment and peace.
I’m learning that gratitude is the best remedy for a critical heart.