A Letter for Every Reader
Thank you for being here with us. When I first embarked on the gratitude journey three weeks ago, I was slightly concerned about running out of words, and not being able to keep up with daily posts.
I'm thankful that the concept of gratitude is fuelling my writings. I wake up to each day, with thanks, and a fearless attitude that whatever comes my way will lead me to another journey of thankfulness.
I'm not oblivious to the fact that there are people who might read the gratitude articles and think, "It's all right for some, you don't know what I've been through, how do you expect me to be thankful? Some will think, "Who does she think she is?" There might be others who read out of curiosity, and then, there will be others who genuinely find the articles encouraging. I welcome you all.
Thought I'd write a letter for every person reading this, and hope to motivate you further to take a look into your environments. Upon starting the Gratitude Challenge, I was surprised to discover that some are commercialising the term GRATITUDE. You want a buddy to go on this journey together? Pay something! How about a cute planner to help you on your journey, and good luck. Cue Disclaimer! It works for some, but I believe it's always best to find your own rhythm, and sometimes, a pretty journal won't cut it.
Fear not, you won't be charged for these writings; if anything, I'm the one who is benefiting more from taking these moments of reflection. I sincerely hope that you can glean some inspiration from these articles.
Today, I'm going to go deeper and write you a personal letter. Are you ready?
Thank you for visiting this website, and I hope that each time you grace us with your presence, you leave with the belief that things can only get better, despite the challenges you may face. If you're living your best life possible, congratulations are in the house. I hope you too will find something that encourages you to sustain what you already have. If you're just curious, you're in the right place also! I hope some words churned on ubuntucourtyard.com will stir something in you, and help you discover what you are looking for.
As I mentioned earlier, it can be easy to become sceptical about what you read online. I was scrolling down my newsfeed on Facebook yesterday when I came across a post by Prince Ea that caught my attention. He asked people to describe how they were feeling, in just one word. Thought what I thought, although I didn't write anything down. It popped from nowhere, and I was pleasantly surprised. Exquisite was the word, in case you're wondering. I then decided to check the comments to see what others had to say. It felt like opening a Pandora's box. Over 90% of the 26000 comments at the time were negative. It made me realise just how easy it is to get on with our lives, without having an understanding of how others are feeling. All this talk about gratitude is not going to help if you are hurting, worse still, if you've got no-one else to talk to, or even if you've got some people to talk to, they just don't get you.
Most of us have gone through steep and rough patches in life; I too have gone through periods where I'd cry almost every day. That smile that most people talk about once disappeared, and yes, I could write rolls and rolls of the wrongs that had led me to a place of misery. On the outside, I was thriving, but deep inside, my soul wept. However, I wasn't always like that. I grew up being what some might term as a 'free spirit'. If anyone had asked me to practice gratitude at the time of my misery- fuelled existence, I would have told them to get lost.
Forgiveness and Gratefulness
It is challenging to practice gratitude if you're hurting in some way or another. Before you can get to the point of appreciation, you have to let go of much stuff through forgiveness. I once wrote a story called The 'Sweet' Sweet Potatoes and touched on the power of letting go. The Tomato Plant series also touches on the beauty of forgiveness. Gratitude is not something that just happens; it's a conscious choice you make. Allow me to take you through a different analogy to encourage those still sitting on the fence regarding gratitude.
Forgiveness is another term which is often touted online or at many church gatherings. What worries me the most is that as much as people talk about it, they don't fully embrace and practice forgiveness. I've seen people who have been hurt by others proclaim how great God is, but when they open their mouths, their words are full of hatred: someone did something, they said something, refused to do this, called me that...the complaints never end.
I've seen sworn enemies pray for each other when they don't even like each other. What I'm trying to say is, we often find it easier to talk about the right concepts than practice them. Nobody is perfect, and I can tell you that as much as I sometimes find fault in others, I am not perfect either. However, I know that unforgiveness will rob you of any ability to appreciate what you have, let alone see the best in others.
If anyone had asked me to practice gratitude at the time of my misery fuelled existence, I would have told them to get lost.
The Dumping Ground
Picture this: in a neighbourhood or city lies a beautiful piece of land. Beautiful flowers are in bloom, and the grass is lush and green, admired by locals and passers-by. It's a well-maintained garden, and as a result, most people respect it. They don't throw litter or dump rubbish on the ground. They don't want to be seen throwing litter on such a pristine piece of land. As a result, the place continues to thrive and becomes a hub for all creatures great and small. It is a little place that gives life.
Then, one day, something happens. A passer-by who doesn't give much care about the environment dumps rubbish on the very place that's so admired by many. That rubbish is not picked up; maybe there's no one being paid to maintain that land. Another person who has been holding on to trash at their house, and can't be bothered to hire a skip or drive to a rubbish collection point notices that someone has dropped a bit of rubbish. To him, it's a 'good sign'. It can only mean that he too can dump whatever he can't be bothered to deal with. Before you know it, that once pristine place is turned into a dumping site.
If nothing gets done, it won't be long until people who used to respect that place start dumping their litter, or whatever rubbish they have, because everybody is doing it. It might begin with a few individuals sneaking in the middle of the night until people don't even care that everybody can see them. Everybody is at it, so why not? Meanwhile, the place that used to be a haven and admirable becomes nothing but a place of rubbish, and more garbage keeps piling up by the day. It becomes an eye-sore, but nobody is willing to do anything about it.
The dumping ground could represent your unforgiving heart. You used to be happy, free, dream and believed that life was so beautiful until something happened. Perhaps it started with a small incident or even something major that broke your world apart. Before you knew it, you'd developed bad habits to cope with your predicament. Big and small issues now congregate within you. They multiply because that ground is now fertile for all types of negativity. The more the place stinks, the more you attract other undesirables. Light becomes a thing of the past. Maybe it started with guilt and shame until fear came in. Criticism, resentment, perfectionism, stress, anxiety, envy, jealousy, complaining, and many other negative spirits come in because you know what, they can! The conditions are 'perfect' for all these vices to breed.
Without emotional housekeeping, any negativity can come and go as it pleases. Until work is done to get rid of all the different types of garbage that now occupies how we think and how we feel, one will be stuck in a cycle of misery, depression, ungratefulness, revenge, stress and all the physical manifestations that come with not being in control of our thought processes and ultimately, emotional well-being. I've learnt that forgiveness is the only way to start clearing up that emotional space. It's not as simple as it sounds. Depending on how long you've been in that state, you might have to pick layers of stuff before you even get to the root cause of the problem.
Moreover, when you think you've done your best, someone else comes back to dump more trash, why? Because you're changing, they're not! They might not even bother to acknowledge the fact that you're trying to become a better person. Must you be discouraged by how others respond to your journey?
Get Rid of Emotional Garbage!
Forgiveness is a long process, a clearing up exercise which will unearth a whole lot of ugliness about your situation. You might be tempted to remain the same because being exposed and vulnerable is too much to handle. You may also learn that it's not so much about the people who did you wrong, but how your behaviour encouraged people to dump their rubbish upon your life. Perhaps you didn't set boundaries, or maybe you didn't heal from past hurts and brushed everything underneath, instead of confronting real truths.
Without faith, it's hard to clear up the now desolate land and transform it into a place capable of new growth. I hope you get the picture. Is there hope? Yes, there is! It's very much possible to start the healing process and get rid of the layers and layers of negative emotions that now influence how you think and react to unexpected situations.
Talk to people who understand what you're going through, people who won't judge or make you feel as if what you're going through is nothing. I'm sorry that you've been hurt, and I know that some of you never received apologies from the perpetrators. Still, you have to let it go. Pray about it, stay true to exactly how you're feeling when you express your feelings to God. I was recently encouraged by someone who told me to praise God even though things might not be perfect. When you praise, give thanks and worship him, something happens. He can take the battle you're facing into his own. Trust in him, and know that he wants you to go to him as you are (he's always waiting), not how others expect you to be. Don't let bad memories torment and trap you, there's a higher power that has authority over everything you face. Let it go, and set yourself free. You deserve a life that's full of wonder.
I always say that the reason why most people suffer in silence is because of the inability of others to acknowledge their pain. Holding on to past hurts merely imprisons souls, even if one could be exuding confidence, and pretending that all is well. Not letting go also harms those who are close to us. Unforgiveness can turn a person into an agent that poisons other people's lives through words and actions.
Have you ever met someone who always finds something negative to say, no matter how much others try to please? There's nothing you can do right. You do well, they complain or withhold compliments. Make a mistake, and they blow everything out of proportion. The more you look at them, the more you'll realise that at some point, something happened that hurt them badly, and their negativity is nothing but something that they've become accustomed to. To some, being a victim is nothing but a weapon of manipulation. Instead of letting go, they've built all sorts of tunnels and walls that resist love and light. Unforgiveness becomes nothing but a way to cope, but ultimately destroying themselves and others in the process.
Remember too that forgiveness isn't mainly about the other person who did you wrong; it's about setting yourself free so that you can embrace what life has to offer. It's not even about maintaining toxic relationships just because you're a good person. A lot of our blessings and opportunities aren't coming our way, not because we don't deserve them, but because we've failed to clear up the emotional garbage that accumulated in our lives. The more you forgive, the more you can breathe, and find it easier to exercise gratitude even for the smallest things.
I hope and pray that you can let go so that you can embrace your blessings, big and small.
Woman On a Gratitude Journey
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