Saying Thank You and spirituality

There are widely different views on saying thank you, and how it relates to spirituality.

In classic theosophical circles, at least here in The Netherlands, saying thank you is a bit of a taboo I’ve been fighting. It is thought that people who need a ‘thank you’ for their efforts are really not as devoted to the cause as they should be.

I always turn that around: while it is great if you don’t need to be thanked for something you did, you can’t expect others to be there yet. That’s up to them. In the meantime, thank them for what you appreciate. It’s good manners.

On the flip side there are loads of people who think that being thankful is a spiritual practice in itself. Gratitude practice and all that. I’m a bit skeptical about that too (doubting me). However, research seems to support this attitude more than the previous one.

On one of my favorite psychology blogs, the value of being grateful was summed up as follows:

studies have suggested that being grateful can improve well-being, physical health, can strengthen social relationships, produce positive emotional states and help us cope with stressful times in our lives.

Of course that doesn’t mean one should PRACTICE gratitude, merely that being grateful is a positive force in one’s life. Which is pretty self evident. On the flip side, my mom is convinced one of the reasons the Dutch are one of the happiest people in the world, is because we love to complain. Then again (me talking), it might just be because we have such a good social security system, which leads to less worry about failure, which leads to less stress, which makes people happier. Not that we’re likely to be able to keep it up though, but that’s another story.

Back to the topic.

It turns out that thanking people makes those people more likely to help: not just you, but also other people who come asking for it. It’s apparently about social anxiety: is my help really appreciated? If people thank us, we know that it is, and we feel safer helping the next person.

Personally I can relate: when I think of helping someone, I do think about whether they might appreciate it or not. And if I think they will, I’m more likely to do it. It’s hard to know whether being thanked makes me personally more helpful. However, the sincerity of the appreciation does play a part. When I get the sense that someone just thanks everybody for their contribution, it means less when they thank me.

7 thoughts on “Saying Thank You and spirituality”

  1. Yours is an interesting take on the subject. I would not have thought that saying thank you would ever be a taboo, but I can see the reasoning behind it. I don’t believe that people should PRACTICE gratitude, either, however having a mindset of being grateful for what one has or their position in life, whatever that is can really be a great force in one’s life. I know I don’t always say thank you or need to hear it. The demeanor with which people interact is more important–a smile, a kind word, a kind deed. That’s what’s important.

  2. Gratitude to me means a lot more than just saying the words, “Thank you.” Real gratitude is something profoundly altering to our consciousness of who we are in the world.

    Thank you for pointing out that gratitude is a practice.

    Sometimes I experience what you could call gratitude (for nothing in particular, which is to say everything) and it fills my whole being with an intensity and the only thing that remains is weeping.

    The experience of that is far beyond just being polite.

  3. Enjoyed your blog. I did think that maybe its better not to think too much about thanks etc. better just to accept and go with it.
    Surely its more about us giving thanks to have been able to give to others also to have given that with love unconditionaly.
    love to all.

    1. Muslims are thankful for our lack of sense of social reality? I doubt it with Wilders putting them ever deeper in a corner.

      I mean seriously. I’m sure many of the most successful and talented ones are seriously thinking of moving back to Turkey and Morocco. Not sure what all that has to do with saying ‘thank you’ properly though.

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