What we mean when we say, “Thank you.”

We say “Thank you” a lot.

A waitress refills our drink: “Thank you.”

Someone holds a door for us: “Thanks.”

The cashier at the check-out hands us our receipt: “Thanks so much.”

In some ways I think maybe it has become a throw-away phrase that we have gutted of all its meaning. I’m not saying we should stop using the phrase. It’s the generally accepted polite response in many situations, and I don’t want suggest that we increase our level of rudeness.

But it seems to me that we find it very easy to use in these trivial, every-day situations, when the meaning is very shallow, but we find it very difficult to use when deep, heartfelt gratitude is truly called for.

Thanksgiving has always been a time for expressing our gratitude to God for all His blessings throughout the year and throughout our lives. This is good and as it should be. It’s one of the reasons that Thanksgiving is possibly my favorite holiday.

Well, that and home-made stuffing and gravy.

However, I’ve been wondering if maybe we shouldn’t also include a secondary emphasis. What if we also made Thanksgiving a time for expressing sincere gratitude to other people who have blessed our lives in significant ways? Why is that often so difficult? Why do we reserve that kind of thing for retirement parties, funerals, and other special occasions?

Maybe it’s because the phrase really means something that we don’t usually like to admit. When we say, “Thank you,” we’re really saying, “I’m in your debt.” We’re admitting that someone has done something for us that we cannot repay. We’re admitting that we’re needy, and completely dependent on someone else for our well-being. It’s a very humbling thing to say.

But, it’s the truth. Isn’t it? We need one another. We’re in debt to one another. There are people without whom I would not be me, and you would not be you.

Now, I recognize that the people we owe the most to are often the ones we’re closest to. And because we’re so close we sort of assume that the gratitude is understood. Maybe it is. So what? That might even make the act of expressing it even more important.

I don’t mean that we make a big production of it and plaster our love and gratitude all over social media for the world to see. I’m certainly not against doing that, but we need to really consider our motives. Is it to bring attention to the person we appreciate, or so that everyone knows what a wonderful person I am for saying so?

But consider…

How would it make you feel if someone you cared about simply told you how they appreciate you, and how you have blessed them? Wouldn’t that be a powerful encouragement and an emotional uplift?

Maybe we should go first.

Maybe we should give that gift to someone else this Thanksgiving.



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