Gratitude Without Comparison

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In a Western conversation about gratitude you’ll often hear the well-meaning advice to compare your situation against someone who has it worse, which is supposed to make you instantly feel better. If you wouldn’t want to trade places then things must not be as bad as you thought after all.

But this type of gratitude misses the mindful perspective entirely because comparison is actually the central element. You’re still not appreciating your situation as it is but only against some other situation. This strategy will end up backfiring because it keeps you mired in a competitive spirit, one where you’re trying to do better on the backs of those who are doing worse, which is a vicious outlook on the world.

The mindful attitude focuses instead on noticing your present experience as it is, leaving judgment and comparison behind and instead putting all that psychic energy into existing fully in the here and now. In this sort of framework gratitude is easy to cultivate without feeling compelled to compare your situation favorably or unfavorably against those of others. You simply recognize and appreciate all of the miracles of your existence in the moment without valuing them as better or worse than what anyone else is going through.

Comparison is a game you can never win because there will always be someone who is doing better. Hoping to cultivate an authentic sense of gratitude by means of comparison is missing the point of mindfulness, staying stuck instead in the individualistic Western way of experiencing the world, a world where competition is king.