The Meaning of Thank You

It’s one of the first lessons we ever learn in kindness. And most of us can’t remember when we learned it because we learned it so young.  Yet, saying “Thank you” easily becomes a routine, empty habit.

photo credit: AlicePopKorn

The Habit of Thank You is vital. I’m currently in the process of training my daughter in this habit. At her age a good deal of conscious effort is involved just in the asking for something. Having strung together all the right words and enunciated them sufficiently for us to understand what she means, she now is learning to say “thank you” after her request has been granted.

There is more to “thank you” than we usually realize. Reading Gary Vaynerchuck’s The Thank You Economy, I took a moment to think about what “Thank You” really means. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Peace. “Thank you” comes at the end of a pleasant exchange. It acknowledges that things easily could have been otherwise. Instead of charity and kindness, I could have punched you in the eye.
  2. Freedom. The gift was freely given, the service came with unexpected attention. And the response to this undeserved kindness is simple gratitude–which is also uncoerced.
  3. Humanity. “Thank you” signals a point of contact between two individuals, a moment of connection in which love, community, dependence, and compassion became tangible. For at least a moment, one human being actually looked at and saw another human being for what she is.

We deal with difficult people every day, and those difficult people have to deal with us (God have mercy on them). The next time you feel your feathers ruffle, try to remember the “ethic of thank you.” Though you may not have anything to thank the jerk in front of you for, the “thank you ethic” still reminds us of some essential things.

  • This jerk in front of you is a human being. Try to see him as a human instead of the caricature you’ve made of him.
  • You have never done anything to deserve God’s kindness, but He bathed you in it anyway. Show this loudmouth the same type of kindness. You are not under any obligation to be a jerk. You are obliged to show him grace.
  • Tense moments move toward either pain or peace, toward blows or benedictions. Aim for peace, even if the other guy doesn’t want it. Aim for a “thank you,” and be sure you’re the one to say it.