Why Is It So Difficult to Say Thank You?

Written By Jeremy Hor, Singapore

Saying “thank you” is something we don’t do naturally. I remember my parents reminding me to say “thank you” every time I received a gift, whether it was for a present that I was really excited about or a simple gesture that someone showed. It’s two simple words that don’t take much effort to articulate, but we just haven’t been forthcoming enough to say “thank you”, despite benefiting from others.

So why do we find it so difficult to say “thank you”? Maybe it’s because:

  1. We are worried about the present or what is to come. We may go through times in our lives where the outlook is bleak. It could be major crises in our lives, or more often, anxiety and stress about work, school, relationships, or activities that overwhelm us to the extent we find it difficult to be thankful.
  2. We aren’t content with what we have. Have you ever been disappointed by a gift you’ve received? It’s easy to think “I deserve better”, but more often than not, that response is symptomatic of selfishness and ungratefulness in our hearts that hinder our thankfulness.
  3. We don’t see our need. In a bid to prove our independence and self-sufficiency, saying “thank you” could be a sign of vulnerability and weakness—that we cannot manage on our own.
  4. We are more preoccupied with the gift than the giver. Even when we get what we want, we forget to say “thank you” because in our excitement, the gift distracts us from the giver.

The Importance of Saying “Thank You”

Researchers have found evidence that showing gratitude can make us happier and more satisfied with our lives. Dr. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor from the University of California, has found that gratitude improves emotional and physical health, and it can strengthen relationships and communities. It is, according to Emmons, a “chosen attitude.” We must be willing to recognize and acknowledge that we are the recipients of an unearned benefit.

The apostle Paul, therefore, had our best interest at heart when he encouraged the church in Philippians to be thankful:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

Even before the findings of modern day cutting edge research, Paul knew that the secret of being joyful and having peace was to be thankful. Surprisingly, Paul asked the Philippians to be thankful even though both the Philippians and himself were suffering for their faith.

Being thankful helps us to look away from our situation and to focus on the giver. God is our gracious heavenly Father who gives us many good gifts, though we are undeserving. In our suffering, He knows what we go through, and He strengthens and sustains us. Therefore, we need not worry, because we can trust that God has all things under His control and He cares for us.

God’s goodness has been revealed supremely in His salvation plan for us. He sent His only Son sacrificially to meet our greatest need—the need for salvation from sin and death, and He gave us the free gift of eternal life. By His grace, we have been adopted into His family, and given citizenship into His kingdom.

Now, that’s something to say “thank you, God” for, again and again.

Photo credit: asenat29 / Foter / CC BY


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