Thank You

When my wife was a teenager, her stepmother one day advised her that if she didn’t have anything nice to say to someone, she could instead try saying, thank you. Not long thereafter, my wife directed some teenage angst at her stepmom, who got red in the face and responded, “Thank you!” before exiting the room.

At Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of the many flavors of gratitude and the interesting power of the words thank you. These words come up with kind of an unusual frequency in our household, and it’s not because we don’t have anything nice to say to each other.

A major contributor to the rise of thank yous in our home is the fact that my wife and I have been trying for the past few years to teach them to our four year old daughter. She’s at an age when saying thank you is not yet natural. It’s a behavior to be memorized and executed habitually so that your parents don’t get fussy. On Halloween I had to keep reminding her, “There are just two things you need to remember to say – ‘trick or treat’ and ‘thank you.’”

I catch myself sometimes flashing a sheepish look at generous adults as I prompt her with, “What do you say, Sailor?” Later I might tell her, “I don’t want to have to keep reminding you to say thank you.” But that’s not really the way I want to teach her the specialness of these words. I don’t want her to say thank you out of guilt. I don’t want her to say it just because it’s polite. I don’t want her to learn that a steady stream of thank yous is the way to avoid any disruption to the process of gift unwrapping or trick-or-treating.

I want her to say it because she feels it.

When thank you issues from your heart because you feel gratitude, the last thing on your mind is what effect it might have on the other person. It seems a misuse of these words to hope to get something – even better rapport – in return for saying them. On the other hand, it seems silly to reserve them just for special occasions, unless you recognize that your day is full of them.

Sometimes a more calculated use of thank you can still feel earnest, such as when you encounter difficulties. Maybe it doesn’t arise spontaneously when things don’t go the way you want them to. Perhaps thank you is the last sentiment on your mind when, for instance, you find out you’re going to miss a day of your vacation because of a booking error. Instead, maybe you’re thinking, this sucks.

But, the smooth flow of life proceeds by some fairly binary rules. There’s acceptance and resistance, yes and no. Whether we think, this sucks, or, this isn’t what I wanted, or, this isn’t fair, or simply, no, we resist the reality of things, we generate struggle, friction, and conflict. I’m not saying we shouldn’t allow ourselves to think and feel these things (because, of course, that would be saying no on another level). But, this attitude is the equivalent of paddling against the current. What if we just get back into the flow and utilize the trajectory of life, but gently steer toward a happy outcome?

When, on the other hand, we think, yes, or, I’m game, or, let’s see where this leads me, or, I’m open, or… thank you, something very different happens. Not just in our internal experience; the world actually responds differently to us. If you look an obstacle in the face and say, thank you, you deflate its power to bully you. You state your anticipation of an outcome you’ll be grateful for. This Thanksgiving, why not try saying thank you not just for the good stuff, but for the challenges, too.

Thank you – for everything,

Peter and Briana Borten and everyone at The Dragontree

13 thoughts on “Thank You

  1. Thank you for this needed message.

  2. Thank YOU, Peter, and Briana, for all the love and wisdom you bring to my life and this world.

  3. Loved this so much.

  4. Thanks, I love this!

  5. Love this. Thank you!

  6. Thank you, Peter, for the lovely post. For whatever reason my mom never taught me to say thank you. From 4th – 6th grade I was best friends with a girl named Stacey and would spend a lot of time at her home (her family was wonderful) and her mom often would drive me home. One day as I was getting out of the car, Stacey’s mom turned around to me and said very pointedly “you’re welcome.” I was horrified and mortified, but I quickly got the point and I am so grateful that she did something to get my attention around the topic of “thank you.”

    1. Thank you! To all of you! Simply for allowing your vision of the world and your love to be available to all of us, you are changing the world one person at a time. Eternally grateful 💜

  7. Lovely, thank you

  8. Thanks for the ideas … needing to reframe a lot these days ; )

  9. Great reminder. Thank you!

  10. Wow! Did I ever need to read this right here, right now! I’ve been saying Bless you, but it usually isn’t the first or second words that come to my mind. So, thank you for being my messenger of peace when I wasn’t feeling very peaceful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    1. Talk about timing! I so needed that as I just finished an interior battle over being used by a family member. Had worked through it but didn’t reach the “thank “ you part. Thank you for an eye and heart opener.

  11. Thank YOU for this message at this time of year and all times!

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