As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us are contemplating how we’d like to give thanks. We may be counting our many blessings, serving others, and eagerly preparing for enriching family traditions. However, expressing genuine and lasting gratitude takes more than clinking your glasses together around the dinner table. It takes constant thought, committed work, and vulnerability, which is difficult for many people in our society today.
In fact, the very word vulnerable makes us wary of it. Most often, vulnerability is defined as being open or susceptible to attack or harm. We are hard-wired in so many ways to avoid being vulnerable. However, there is another aspect of vulnerability when it comes to our emotions and how we relate to the people around us.
This form of vulnerability is defined by honesty, emotional openness, and acceptance. Though it still carries risk, it is essential to building and expressing gratitude. But why?
One. Vulnerability Builds Relationships.
The basis of any relationships is honesty and vulnerability. As one person opens up and honestly expresses the deep thoughts and feelings of their soul, they build a connection to another person. Hopefully, this risk is taken for good reason; the other person not only accepts what was expressed vulnerable but they, in turn, become vulnerable themselves.
This cycle continues on and the relationship grows on a strong foundation. Not only are we able to openly express gratitude, but we have a reason to be grateful! Most people list relationships with spouses, family, and friends, as the thing they are most grateful for.
Two. Vulnerability Cultivates Safe Spaces.
Vulnerability can help create safe spaces, which is not something we experience every day. We live in a world that tells us we need to be bigger, better, faster, stronger. We see ideal versions of life on social media and people can be quick to ridicule us for unpopular or unusual opinions. Combine that with the culture within the Church that tells us to be happy and perfect, and you’ve got people who find it hard to open up.
If we are to truly express gratitude, we need to feel truly safe. This safety allows us room to ponder, room to serve, room to enjoy our blessings, and room to express our gratitude.
Three. Vulnerability Invites Spontaneity.
The more safe someone feels, the more likely they are to be true to themselves. They will express themselves purely and with spontaneity. In a safe place, there is no need for censorship or anxiety over how you will be viewed or accepted. One of the best ways to cultivate gratitude is to express it when we feel it. When we can be spontaneous and express love, charity, and gratitude without fear of reprisal or judgment, these emotions can grow in our hearts.
Four. Vulnerability is Reciprocal.
When we are vulnerable with another person, the hope is that they will safe to be vulnerable in return. Gratitude works in a similar way. The more grateful we are, the more we notice our blessings. The more we express gratitude, the more we help others do the same. By being vulnerable and saying “I love you” or “Thank you,” we open up the door to spread the attitude of gratitude around us.
Five. Vulnerability is Genuine.
Gratitude is pretty worthless if it isn’t genuine. We can say the words, but if they do not come from the heart they do not have the same power and effectiveness to change our hearts and the hearts of others. When we are vulnerable, we are in our most genuine state. When we can express gratitude from a vulnerable place, it is guaranteed to be sincere.
Gratitude is an important and beautiful principle of the gospel. What has helped you be more vulnerable in expressing gratitude?