"We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way"
- The Avett Brothers
We all know that person, that individual who, no matter how nice they are, their generosity comes with a condition – make sure you say “thank you.” It’s almost as if they are being nice just to get the recognition, and not because of the generosity in their heart. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that makes me less likely to want to say thank you, or even accept their help, gift, or charity in the first place. There’s just something off-putting about someone doing something nice for you just so they can get a response or recognition for it, and then holding it against you if you forget to say “thank you.” I often think of the scripture Matthew 6:1-4 when in this situation:
“Be careful! When you do good things, don’t do them in front of people to be seen by them. If you do that, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to the poor, don’t be like the hypocrites. They blow trumpets in the synagogues and on the streets so that people will see them and honor them. I tell you the truth, those hypocrites already have their full reward. So when you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know what you are doing. Your giving should be done in secret. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you.”
Should we be practicing generosity and good deeds with the hope we will receive a thank you? Should we refrain from thanking those who are obviously just looking for a thank you because of the principle behind it? Of course God wants us to do good deeds, but God doesn’t want us gloating about it or holding it over people’s heads for recognition. It’s the motive of our heart that matters to God, not our behavior itself.
Yesterday at work a co-worker quickly stuck his head in my office and said, “Thank you.” I laughed and said, “what for, I’m just sitting here.” He reiterated “just thank you.” In the back of my mind, I had an idea of what I had done to warrant his kind affirmation but he refused to clarify for my curiosity what it was. It got me thinking, though, about how we interact with the people in our life, and how we often take people, their kindness, gifts, and abilities for granted.
How many people do you go up to and just say “thank you” to on a daily basis? How many people serve you in one way or another, even in little ways (the mail carrier, the grocery store clerk, or even our partners/spouses)? My co-worker’s quick visit to my office reminded me of how quickly those two little words could brighten my day. To feel appreciated is something most people yearn for. I know when he said “thank you” I certainly felt appreciated. We all want validation that we’re doing a good job, or that we’ve helped others in some way. To hear “thank you” for even small things can make a miserable morning into something much more bearable.
If we all began living our lives with a more intentional attitude of thankfulness, think about how many people’s lives we could influence for the better. Thank your children for helping out with the dishes (even if they put them in “the wrong way”). Thank your friend for calling to check in on you and plan a night out, even if you are busy. Thank your co-workers for the time they put into a project which helped you get your own work done. Thank the person who is cashing you out at the store for their hard work. It’s really not that hard to say thank you. The more you say it, the more you get used to it, and more the people in your life know how much you appreciate them. But here’s the thing – do it without expecting anything in return, and I mean nothing. You may tell one person “thank you” several times in a week and they won’t reciprocate at all, but that’s ok. You still may be making a difference in their life, helping boost their self-confidence, allowing them to feel the nerve to try something new, to take more risks. The more we let people know they are appreciated, the more they will believe in themselves the next time something comes up where previously they thought they didn’t have what it took to be successful.
Your two kind words of “thank you” could be the one thing between influencing someone to stay in their comfort zone or breaking out and trying something brand new.
Don’t underestimate our role in the lives of others. Everything we do influences the people in our life. Why not start focusing on being that small ray of sunshine in someone else’s life, instead of focusing on what others can do for you. In the end, isn’t that what love is all about?
Is it difficult for you to say thank you? What steps have you taken to have an attitude of gratitude with the people in your life?