And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
The words “Thank you” are words we don’t hear enough. I think in many instances it is easier to get the words “I love you” out than “thank you” because in order to thank someone, you have to actually think of what you are thankful for. Good encouragers use the words “thank you” often. Why? Because it makes the person who gets thanked feel good, it makes the encourager feel good and it often gets a behavior to repeat. Here is an example from real life:
At summer camp one year, the retreat center staff who provides our meals cooked ribs for the campers and the camp staff and priests. I love ribs, and so do many other people. Having been at camp for years, I can easily say it is the best meal I’ve ever had there, and that’s saying something, because over the years, the food has been great. As I was carrying my empty tray to the place we clean them, I turned toward the kitchen and yelled as loud as I could, “That was the best meal ever!” The cooks in the kitchen all had big smiles on their faces. The campers who were standing close to me who heard what I had said started clapping. Here is the good that happened:
~The kitchen staff felt good because they were acknowledged.
~I felt good because I made them feel good.
~It cost me not time to do this as I was going to put my tray up anyway. I didn’t even break stride to thank them.
~The next week at camp, they served ribs again. The behavior repeated.
It was a win all around.
Unfortunately, this is not how we generally handle “thank you’s” in real life.
As I mentioned before, the food at camp is just about always good. I can count on one hand the number of bad meals I’ve had there in the 36 weeks (and counting) of camp I have attended. We’re talking well over 600 meals and maybe 5 of them were not great. That’s less than one percent. Over ninety-nine percent of the time, I have eaten a great meal.
In life, we usually only notice when someone does something bad or wrong and we make a big deal out of it. When things go well, it’s like we expect them to go well and we fail to voice any thanks or encouragement.
Using the camp numbers, let’s say that I complained for those five “not great” meals, less than one percent of the meals I have eaten at camp. And let’s say that I never said any thank you for the other ninety-nine percent of the meals I have eaten there, save for the ribs. The camp kitchen staff might think that they only make one out of six meals good, since they got one thank you and five complaints. This might cause them to have doubts, or feel discouraged, when this isn’t the case at all.
So we see there are positive outcomes when we are thankful and encouraging, and negative consequences when we fail to be thankful and encouraging. However, saying nothing is almost as bad as saying something negative. Think about it from the staff’s perspective: Five meals were complained of as bad. One meal was complimented. And if the other 594 meals were not even worth a comment, perhaps they will think they were bad as well. Think how the staff would feel if they thought that only one out of 600 meals was good! It would lower their self-esteem and self-confidence and this would be totally unnecessary and wrong, because the truth is 595 meals have been great! I just didn’t make a point of thanking and encouraging them.
We see the power of encouragement to make someone feel good. We see the power of encouragement to make us feel good. We see the power of encouragement to get a behavior to repeat. And we see that encouragement does not have to take much time at all. In this case, it took none.
We also see what can happen if we do not encourage. Indifference is just as much a negative as criticism. Perhaps even more. Because in order to criticize, you have to evaluate. To be indifferent is as if to say it wasn’t even worth the time to criticize.
I’m sure I have said thank you more than one time in all my summers of camp. However, I’m very sure I didn’t say thank you even half of the time.
There are many people who are in our lives all the time—our spouses, our children, our co-workers, our friends. Do we make a point to thank them with any regularity? Or do we only make a point of being critical when they do something wrong? Encouragement is a great motivator. Not only it makes someone feel good. But it also gets good things to repeat.
And it’s not only those who you are related to or friends with that we should be thanking. Think of all the people who serve you in a day—a doctor, a dentist, the person who delivers the mail, the clerk at the store, the server at the restaurant, the police officer, your child’s teacher, a coach. There are many who serve us in relative obscurity, generally only recognized by us when they do something wrong. Let’s make it a point of thanking those around us for all they do that is right.
When someone does something good for you, don’t forget to thank them. You’ll feel good. They will feel good. And they will be motivated to do good for you again. The best news of all—it costs nothing to say “thank you.” In fact, you can do it in less than a few seconds.
Heavenly Father, thank You for all the people who do so much for me in my life. (List members of your family, friends, co-workers, others whom you are thank for). Thank You for the many people who serve me and make my life better (your doctor, dentist, accountant, police officer, teacher, coach, etc.) Help me to be more aware of those around me who make my life more full, who help me on a daily basis. Help me to have a heart that is filled with gratitude, and give me the words and the opportunities to express my gratitude to them. Amen.
Make sure you making thanking people a daily part of your life!