Gratitude has been very trendy for several years. It’s everywhere you look, especially during this season. Tips for feeling gratitude. For keeping a gratitude journal. For feeling gratitude for your challenges and failures.

But for me, gratitude has always had a nemesis. One that hides in the shadows waiting to rob all the beauty and power away from our feelings of thankfulness. What is it?

Guilt.

Guilt is a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, or wrong, whether real or imagined. Why do I think gratitude and guilt can go hand in hand, then? Why, when we count our blessings, do we so often end up feeling that we have committed some offense?

One word – should.

As in,

I have all these wonderful things in my life.  I should be happy.

I have a job making good money.  I shouldn’t complain.

I always wanted kids.  I should spend more time focusing on them.

Darn that should.  That one little word yanks us away from gratefulness and into guilt and shame.

But isn’t this what we do to ourselves as women so often?  We take what is supposed to be a joyful practice and turn it into a big pile of guilt, a list of ways we still aren’t measuring up. And all our blessings end up being nothing more than another criticism.

For a long time, I thought the power of gratitude was in those shoulds. That my guilt was what would propel me forward to a better place. That I could guilt my way to contentedness.  How wrong I was.

The real power of gratitude lies in seeing your blessings for just what they are. In accepting the good in your life without trying to improve it, change it, or replicate it.

I am blessed.  Right now.  Today. And it doesn’t require anything from me.