Last Updated December 01, 2020
Since last week was Thanksgiving here in the States, I’ve had the idea of gratitude on my mind quite a bit lately. I’ve always treated gratitude as something “extra”. Like, yea, it’s great and all, but it’s not necessary. Gratitude is an example of “going above and beyond”, right? Well, right or wrong, that’s what I’ve always thought - until now.
Unexpressed Gratitude Communicates Ingratitude
A couple of weeks ago I listened to Andy Stanley speak on this very subject. He said “unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude”. And wow, isn’t that the truth? Have you ever been told you were ungrateful only to respond with something like, “that’s ridiculous! Of course I’m grateful for you and what you do!” I have. And, if I’m being honest, it almost feels insulting for someone to suggest I’m ungrateful for something. But, you see that’s just it. If I never actually express that gratitude I have out loud then the other party has no idea I’m grateful for them. In fact, my lack of communication isn’t simply a lack of communication. It communicates the very opposite of what I feel - it communicates ingratitude. Obviously that's not how I feel. But, in this case, feelings don't matter all the much. It is our actions that make all the difference.
That truth, that it's our actions that make all the difference, spans across so many areas of our lives. And it's no different here. There's a story written about 2000 years ago that expresses this very same idea. There's a book in the Bible called Luke, written by, you guessed it, a guy named Luke. He was a historian back then and decided to write about the life of Jesus. In his book he details a story of ten people who had leprosy, a terribly contagious and dangerous disease, that were healed by Jesus. Now, there are a lot of beautiful and thought-provoking layers to the story, but I'll stick to the gratitude piece. If you want to hear more I'd encourage you to check out the talk I referenced at the beginning of the article. Anyway, the ten were told to go to another town and by the time they got there they would be healed - and they were, all ten. However, only one of them came back to say thank you.
Now, to be fair, finding Jesus again after you've been traveling for a couple of days would not have been easy. And, I'm sure the other nine were very grateful in their minds for being healed. I mean, they literally got their life back. But going out of your way for days just to say thank you... I get it. I probably wouldn't have done it, either. Even so, Jesus asked the one who returned where the others were - a rhetorical question, of course. He knew what was going on. But that's it. The story just ends there. Nine didn't come back - the end.
I used to feel like there was a punchline missing from this story. But now I see that the fact that the others didn't return is the punchline. If you look into the miracles recorded of Jesus, they all seemed to have some overarching purpose - some universal truth just underneath the surface of the miracle. I think Luke chose to include this miracle because he recognized, as Jesus did, that gratitude isn't just something "extra". Gratitude is essential for fostering and maintaining relationships. Expressing gratitude is a universal truth we should all begin to practice.
And that's where this article gets real practical. If gratitude is essential for fostering and maintaining relationships then we ought to be about the business of expressing gratitude. So, for me, I'm going to make it a point to verbally express my gratitude to my teammates. And that's even true for the things that they "ought" to do. Just because it's in the job description doesn't mean you don't deserve gratitude when you do it. Because, otherwise, unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude - and that's the last thing I want.
Now get out there and go be grateful!