Re-post: One of Life’s Neglected Words

Photo credit: AlexWitherspoon (via

My wife recently had a cataract removed from her left eye. As planned, a week after the surgery, she went back to the surgeon’s office. He examined the eye and told her that everything was as it should be. She then said to him, “It’s wonderful what you doctors can do these days. I want to thank you very much for this service.” There was a moment of awkward silence, she says, as if he didn’t quite know what to say, and then with a smile he replied, “Well, that’s what we are here to do.” He held the smile but there were no more words. My wife reported that this seemed awkward for both of them, as if he wasn’t used to handling generous words of appreciation. When she told me about this exchange I remembered that a few weeks earlier I had had a complicated problem with my computer.

It was a matter of getting the modem and router to talk to one another and relay their message to the computer. Three different companies were involved. I spent the equivalent of one whole day working with technicians by telephone. One of the technicians worked faithfully for a long period of time before admitting defeat and referring me on to another service. I acknowledged his patient effort and thanked him, which brought a reply I wasn’t expecting. He said, “I can answer a thousand calls and not hear a word like that.”

Is it possible that in our high-tech culture the wonders of modern technology that bless us in all sorts of ways, at the same time make us less thankful for these blessings? The Bible has a great deal more to say to us about thanking God than it does about thanking our fellows. Unless, that is, the idea is subsumed in the Second Commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, or in Jesus’ instruction to treat others as we want to be treated.

Who does not appreciate a simple word of thanks? And who can forget St. Luke’s story of ten lepers who cried out to Jesus from a distance for healing. He sent them to the priests, ostensibly to be cleared for entrance back into society. In this case, Luke tells us, “… as they went, they were cleansed.” Luke is also quick to report Jesus’ perplexity that of the ten, only one returned and “…threw himself at Jesus feet and thanked him.” And he was a foreigner to God’s chosen people (Luke 17:11-20).

Little words of thankfulness dropped here and there add color and warmth to life. When they are withheld or neglected life can be grey or even painful. Shakespeare’s King Lear laments about the ingratitude of his daughters in these words: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / to have a thankless child.” Which reminds me that it’s good to express thanks to a surgeon or computer technician but the best place to release long overdue words of appreciation first of all is in the home where primary family connections are either oiled by such words or left to creak painfully through the days.

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3 thoughts on “Re-post: One of Life’s Neglected Words

  1. Thank you for re-posting today’s message!!!! How true, so many times we go about our business and never think of anything or anyone else. Several years ago, I decided to take extra care to thank those who help me. One day just last week, I thanked a service man and told him I appreciated his help. His response was “Thank you for thanking me…I don’t hear that too often”. I pray I am never in too much of a hurry to thank those who help me along the way!!

  2. Like Kathleen ,I too had a cataract operation in my left eye,nearly 20 years ago.It’s a remarkable operation . I couldn’t see immediately afterwards .But after a few weeks ,when my stitches were taken out & I received additional laser treatment I was grateful clear sight had returned & expressed my gratitude to my surgeon Miss Butler.

    When we talk to God ,or pray,we normally include these things :

    – We THANK Him ,giving credit where credit is due.

    – We PRAISE Him for His greatness.

    – We say SORRY for our wrongdoings.

    Christ’s 2 commandments are to love God and love others .So we should say these 3 things to others when appropriate ,too: Thankyou….Well done ( praise)…..Sorry.

    I always think there’s a close connection between Christ’s two commandments.We should love God AND love others.Though we can never love others as God loves,we must try.Our model must be Jesus Christ.We have to try to love others as Jesus .He showed the way.Has Christian perfection ever been attained by anyone but Jesus and Mary ? The Bible tells us we are all with sin ,so in the absolute sense no.

    But in the Wesleyan sense of Christian perfection ,explained in his ‘A Plain Account of Christian Perfection ‘ which he wrote & amended throughout his life, ,we CAN attain a state of Christian perfection – through God’s grace.Aren’t we assured as much in Romans 6.

    ”Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
    Romans 6:13-14 ( NIV)

    ”You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:18 (NIV)

    We can make a good start at loving others as perfectly as Jesus,by saying ‘Thankyou’ ,’Well Done” & ‘Sorry’ when appropriate.

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