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Beware of gratitude’s evil twin

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Early in our Broken to Brilliant blogging workshops, we covered why gratitude was good for us.

The research clearly shows that people who are grateful are more appreciative of the positive in themselves, the world and the future.

Gratitude improves our physical and mental health, improves our relationships, increases our

resilience, helps us sleep better, boosts our self-esteem, increases our empathy and reduces our


But beware, because gratitude has an evil twin. And mate, you don’t want to play with her.

Bear with me because this may initially sound shocking, but gratitude can be a weapon of

Gratitude’s evil twin

Let’s say you’re in an abusive relationship.

Being grateful can make you overlook red flags, and instead focus on the positives in the


You could distract yourself from the maltreatment by cultivating gratitude for the roof over your

head or your cup of tea in the morning.

You may tolerate terrible treatment from your abuser and be grateful for the crumbs of kindness he

occasionally tosses to you.

In this case, misplaced gratitude is dangerous because it has a tendency to bind you to your abuser.

My own experience

When I disclosed to the leaders at my church about the abuse from my husband (let’s call him Toad),

I was told to focus on his good qualities and remember why I married him in the first place.

At one of our regular marriage counselling sessions, Toad told the counsellor that he’d read my diary (without my permission, by the way).

Toad said he was angry at the things I had written in my diary about him.

The marriage counsellor chastised me, and said I should be using my diary for writing down what I was grateful for instead of expressing my feelings about being abused.

I was advised to dismiss and ignore the abusive treatment I was receiving.

I was counselled to be grateful.

Because I was so diligent in focusing on gratitude, I stayed for twenty years longer than I should have

in that marriage.

It nearly cost me my life.

Impact on society

The weaponisation of gratitude in order to maintain power and control over someone can occur in

an individual setting, like my situation.

Or it could occur on a much bigger scale, such as an organisation and its employees or a church and

its adherents or a government and its citizens.

Those with a lot of power can use gratitude to oppress those with little power and prevent them

from advocating for themselves and seeking equity and justice.

Just ask Aborigines, women, refugees, people with disabilities, the LGBTQI+ community, the elderly…

I could go on.

I’m grateful for what I have, but now I’m not afraid to speak out when things are bad and to take action against injustice.

It’s about balance.

Gratitude is great, but don’t be sucked into playing chicken with that evil twin.

Read More Survivor Gratitude Blogs

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