I read something this week that made me pause. A blogger shared that when she was traveling to Nepal her host politely asked her to stop saying “thank you.” The host explained, “Everything we do for you is our delight and our honor, as an expression of our way of life. There is no need for thanks.” This blogger became fully aware of how often she said “thank you” to just about everything and realized that doing so could become what she called a “distancing tool.” She shared, “[Saying thank you] can be a way to clear up an obligation, to reciprocate in order to make the scales even once again. …I had to admit to myself that while my excessive thank yous were often totally sincere, they often carried a twinge of worry. I didn’t want to put anyone out and I felt uncomfortable receiving without having some way to immediately give back.”
I totally get what she’s saying here. All too often when someone does something for us out of the kindness of their heart, we feel like we have to pay them back – like we owe them something, and I think that’s when excessive thanking can go awry. Because the act of “thanking” becomes more of a business deal, doesn’t it? You did something for me, now I must do something for you, ya know, to keep the score even. I think when we start to play that game we end up rejecting the positive impact that gratitude can have.
Sometimes I find that when I offer to help out a friend or family member many will respond by saying, “No, I’ll be alright. I can manage.” And, heck, I know I’ve done the same thing. What happens when a friend offers to buy our lunch. “Oh, no…you shouldn’t do that. Ok..fine…but I’ll get you next time. Thank you.” And we all know how it feels when we want to do something for someone else, but they just won’t let us. It’s not that they are being unkind, they just don’t want to be any trouble. Yet, when we don’t let others help us, or feel like we owe someone when we do, we are rejecting and denying that unconditional love. The love that wants to give simply to give.
It seems like a really good practice on our path of giving thanks is to learn how to receive.
So I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving thanks. I do think it’s important to become aware of your intentions when giving that thanks. Are you thanking someone because you feel you owe them something? Did they do something for you and now you are paying them back? Are you secretly expecting a thank you in return?
I remember an early memory of a family member getting upset if we didn’t write “thank you cards” for her gifts. It became an expected practice to write thank yous for any gifts received. And although I truly value giving and sharing thanks, when it becomes an obligation or an expectation, it makes me pause. And then I have to look at my own children and how I parent. All too often I’ve seen us mamas out in public with our kids and we repeat, “Say thank you, little Johnny. Johnny? Say thank you!” I think there is also great value in teaching our children to give without force, to receive without rejecting and to determine when giving a “thank you” feels appropriate and intuitive for them.
I may be totally lost in the woods here – maybe making no sense at all.
What I do know is this. Giving thanks over the past 9 days has been energizing and magical. It feels as though I am starting my mornings with wider arms and a more open heart. And that’s gotta be good, right?
I think the best thing I can do when giving is to learn how to fully, boldly and more openly RECEIVE.
So today I give thanks for the opportunity to be a mother, because to me, that’s the greatest practice in giving and receiving. When I’m out alone with my boys, like on our weekly walks, we don’t say “thank you.” We just are. together. giving. sharing. playing. laughing. exploring. receiving. in. love. And that’s the greatest act of giving thanks that I know.
Your Personal Reflection: I would LOVE to hear more about this topic from you. What do you think about “giving thanks” and do you have a hard time receiving things from others without feeling like you have to pay them back? Notice how many times you say “thank you” throughout the day. What are the intentions behind them? And when someone gives you something out of kindness, can you accept and receive it fully? Practice RECEIVING thanks from others today.