The quality of life is usually tied intimately to the quality of our relationships with those around us. All kinds of relationships—those with parents, with friends, with coworkers, with boyfriends or girlfriends, with spouses, etc–have an impact. I have experienced and witnessed beautiful, life-giving relationships and tense, fragile relationships. I have felt the pain that comes with a broken relationship. But, a culmination of my own experiences and the experiences of others has led me to believe that the health of any relationship can be measured by the frequency of the exchange of 8 simple, timeless words: I love you. Thank you. I’m sorry. Amen.
Recently, my boyfriend asked me to go to a movie with him and one of his friends. I had really been looking forward to having a night just the two of us, but I agreed to go and made my best effort to be excited. Afterwards, he took my hand, looked me in the eye, and with sincerity said, “Thank you for doing this tonight. I know it wasn’t what you were planning on, but it really meant a lot to me.”
Not too long after that night, my boyfriend was feeling frustrated with a friend. I heard him out and allowed him to vent, but I also challenged him to consider his friend’s perspective and circumstances. I could tell that my “defending” his friend was aggravating him. However, after a healing conversation between John and his friend, he said to me, “Thank you for being so patient with me and allowing me to vent, and thank you for pushing me to consider his side because I needed to.”
John’s perpetual gratitude is one of the qualities I love most about him. Even daily, ordinary tasks—cooking dinner, doing laundry, cleaning, etc.—that I often don’t track as occasions for thanksgiving, are moments that John expresses gratitude. In being a recipient of John’s gratefulness, I have come to realize thank you is synonymous with saying, “I acknowledge the way you love and take care of me.”
And so, inspired by John’s example, I am trying to become more affirming by thanking those around me more.
In being the recipient of gratitude, and in trying to adopt it myself, I have come to realize that “Thank you” is a way of acknowledging and affirming the other person you are with, it is important in all relationships—my friendships, my relationship with my parents, and my romantic relationships—and that it is an act of thoughtfulness, self-reflection, and humility since “thanking” someone forces me to consider what someone may have sacrificed for me in any given situation.