Happy Humblebrag?

I love collecting words. And a long time ago (though not in a galaxy far, far away), I came across a prize specimen: humblebrag.

You probably know the term. I’m sure you’ve met the reality. It’s the boast disguised as modesty, or the “aw, shucks” that checks itself in the mirror. An old pastor of mine used to call it the competition of “I’m the most humble man in the room.” It never really rings true, yet people keep trying it, whether it’s to look good to others or feel better about themselves.

So why the language lesson? Because it’s that time of year again.

Too often, we let Thanksgiving become a humblebrag holiday.

At its essence, it’s a great idea … a holiday that whispers where others shout. Instead of filling the skies with fireworks or the airwaves with music (aside from 18 minutes of “Alice’s Restaurant”), we’re encouraged to turn inward, reflect and appreciate.

It sounds good. Heck, it is good.

But there’s a danger in counting blessings. It’s easy to stop taking stock and start taking inventory.

“I’m so thankful that I have them … and those … and that … ooh, and the other stuff … and especially that …” All too soon, it becomes a celebration of abundance, where the important thing is to have. After all, a long list means you’re a really appreciative person, right? It’s the sign of someone who knows how to celebrate the good things!

But what happens in a year when the good things are hard to see?

There’s a lot of stress and strain hemming everyone in right now. It might be tight times. Or a family that’s divided, or scattered, or has someone missing that should have been present. It might even be too many days with too much darkness, in a world where stories of pandemic, injustice and hate seem to shout everything else down.

When you’re in the middle of that storm, Thanksgiving can sound kind of hollow. Thankful? For what? Where?

 It’s an old story. One as old as the holiday itself.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears reminding: the first national Thanksgiving was born in war. In 1863, the country remained torn by a civil war that was far from over. Far from a time of peace and prosperity, it was a time when even national survival remained in doubt.

So when President Lincoln declared the holiday, humblebragging was notably absent. Read today, his proclamation seems to hold a note of astonishment. Despite everything, he noted, the nation was still carrying on: still growing, building, trading, interacting with the world. In the midst of pain, and with much yet to do, there still was much to be grateful for.

That’s the real heart of the holiday. Not a feast of abundance, but hope amidst hardship. Even when it’s a hard light to kindle.

Maybe especially then.

There’s no need to throw out the turkey and the stuffing if you’re fortunate enough to have them. But if this is a hurting time, then don’t forget that this is your holiday too. You don’t need to have a mile-long self-satisfied list, or be a model for Norman Rockwell. If you’re here, somehow, against all the odds … then that may just be enough.

Hold on. Hold hope. And when better times return, remember the ones that were less comfortable. Both as a source of gratitude and as a reminder to reach for those still struggling. To be thankful and a cause of thankfulness in others.

I hope you find some of that thankfulness this season. I know I’ll try.

You have my word.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.