Last week I was reminded of both the beauty of gratitude as well as the ugliness of ingratitude.
On Monday a full professor at the university where I am an adjunct happened to learn about something I had done for my students that was over and above what would be expected. And the next day he took the time and made the effort to send me an email thanking me. He certainly did not have to do that, nor did he gain anything by it (except my appreciation for him). But I was honored by his note.
At the end of last week someone for whom I have done a lot turned on me and spoke disrespectfully to me in front of others. In all honesty, all I could think was “has this person forgotten all I have done for him?” While I do not expect to be regularly thanked by this person, my spirit was wounded by his attitude and words.
One of the reasons I think saying thanks is so important is because I have been thanked regularly and often during my years as a pastor and teacher. And I know what it means to me to be on the receiving end of someone’s expression of gratitude. As a matter of fact, during my 44 years of ministry I served four churches: a summer intern youth ministry in Columbus, a five year youth ministry in Cincinnati, a 10 year ministry in the Philadelphia area, and a 30 year ministry in Southern California. I still regularly hear from people in all four of those churches telling me thanks. And during the last few years of my teaching at Hope International University many students have expressed appreciation.
Since saying thank you is so important, why do you suppose so many do not more regularly express gratitude? I know it is the job of our server to wait on us when we eat out, but I’m fairly confident servers are encouraged and appreciate it when we thank them. My sense is that some people don’t say thanks because they are arrogant. They think they deserve what they have been given, or the way they have been treated; they feel they are entitled to it.
It may just be me, but I think ingratitude is a serious sin that shrinks a person’s soul and hardens their heart. In my experience grateful people seem to be positive and happy people. Ungrateful people seem to be negative and discontented. And it’s really about one’s attitude, isn’t it?
Let me make a couple of suggestions.
One is let’s be more intentional and specific about expressing gratitude. First, I think to God; but also to those who are closest to us (especially in our homes and with our close friends) as well as those we come into contact with only casually. Don’t thank people to manipulate them, but take note of what a difference it makes when you say thank you to them.
Finally, learn to be a gracious receiver of the gratitude of others. Work hard not to rebuff someone’s effort to thank you by devaluing what they are thanking you for. Acknowledge their gratitude and tell them you appreciate it.
When it comes to expressing gratitude, what grade would you give yourself? When it comes to receiving gratitude, what grade would you give yourself?
Reply below and share this post on social media if you think others would benefit.
And thanks for reading and considering these thoughts.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/47823583@N03/6822297076″>I Can BEE Grateful</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>