It’s one of the first lessons of civility that we teach our children: learning to say “thank you”. And it’s a lesson that seems very difficult to learn or is quickly forgotten. Yet we all benefit from practicing thankfulness.
We live in a harsh world, demanding from all points of view. So much so that we, too, impose our demands. And if our expectations are not met, our criticism does not wait! Social media is overflowing with negative reviews on all kinds of issues. We are much quicker to call a company to complain about a defect than to praise them for their good service. It’s so rare that when we take the time to stop and thank someone, they often look at us with suspicion. “Why are you nice like that … What do you want from me?” Indeed, many people have unfortunately destroyed the beauty of thankfulness by using it as a manipulation to have more. But we can restore thankfulness to its letters of honor by starting to practice it more regularly, and in all sincerity.
We may be thanking several people every day, without really noticing. We say thank you to the person who held the elevator for us, we say thank you to the employee who gives us our coffee at the coffee shop, as we say thank you to the child who gives us their plate to wash it. These “thanks” are a nice sign of politeness but don’t have depth. They’re a bit like “Hi, how are you?” that two colleagues who cross paths exchange to each other, without taking the time to stop to know what is the state of the other. But if we want to practice thankfulness, it’s already a good start. We can add weight to our “thank you” by describing why we are thankful. So instead of saying “thank you” to the person who held the elevator, you could say “thank you for holding the elevator.” With four more words, you may have gotten a smile.
Expressing our gratitude is very beneficial for those around us. It’s a way to highlight a person’s good deed, which will encourage them to start again. Sometimes a person can do something nice without realizing it, and when you thank them, they realize it and may repeat the action. It is a fast-growing seed. Thankfulness also brings us back to our humanity, it marks a break in our hectic life. Saying thanks is always done in a sweet tone (it’s not the kind of thing we scream), and the Bible confirms the benefits of sweet words. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NKJV). Finally, sincere thanks are also good for us. It helps us to stay humble and keep a positive attitude. “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is”(Proverbs 15:23 NKJV).
It’s the opposite of taking things for granted. Too many people say they understood the value of a person after losing them. It shouldn’t be this way! Practicing thankfulness to our partner, once we are married, will be the best vitamin for keeping our couple healthy. So why not start practicing the art of being thankful now.
Take a moment to say “thank you” to your parents. It’s a way to honor them as God says to do. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3 NKJV). They weren’t perfect, that’s for sure but talk about it with God, He’ll certainly inspire you with a few things to consider.
Take a moment to say “thank you” to your friends. They will certainly look at you with a suspicious eye (“why are you thanking me?”), but show them that you know how to thank them without asking anything in return. Don’t wait to lose a friendship before you realize how precious it was. Saying “thank you” is a way of supporting them, and consolidating your friendship.
Take a moment to say “thank you” to your spiritual leaders. They, too, are not perfect, but they do their best to take care of you (Hebrews 13:17). You don’t know how many times they’ve been tempted to give up on everything! By taking the time to thank them, you will put a balm on the wounds of their heart.
Finally, of course, take the time to say “thank you” to God. This is a seed that will bear much fruit.