Two Sides to Every “Thank You”

וַיַּעַן אַבְרָהָם, וַיֹּאמַר:  הִנֵּה-נָא הוֹאַלְתִּי לְדַבֵּר אֶל-אֲדֹנָי, וְאָנֹכִי עָפָר וָאֵפֶר.  (בְּרֵאשִׁית יח:כז)

27 And Abraham answered and said: ‘Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, who am but dust and ashes.

Many times somebody does something for you and in your mind you acknowledge the goodness that was done, but the words “Thank you” never come out of your mouth. Maybe you forget to say it, or maybe you deliberately omit these words because of a feeling of inadequacy. It should be obvious that without the verbalization of these words the person who did something for you will not feel the recognition that you feel for him. However, is this recognition the only thing lost by not saying “Thank you”?

The Chida brings the following observation: When Avraham Avinu said, he was “but dust and ashes”, he merited the mitzvah of parah adumah (the red hefer) and mei sota (the water that the sota woman drinks). It seems clear that his self-assessment of being dust and ashes existed prior to this utterance. Obviously, there must be some benefit in the exclamation, because only at that point did he receive recognition of his thoughts and those two special mitzvos.

We can answer our original question of what is lost by not saying ‘Thank you’, by looking at what is gained when one does say this. If you verbalize your thanks, it will solidify your understanding of your gratitude towards the other party, and will also anchor your thoughts of thanks. We can also see this idea of solidification through verbalization in prayer: Though prayer is something that is reffered to as Avoda She’bilev, it lacks efficacy if it is not verbalized. Chazal obligate us, that tefillah should be verbalized —at least at a volume that his high enough for a person to hear his own prayers in his ears. (Possibly, one can understand, that this is to internalize that which you have said.)

When you say “Thank you” to your friend, not only are you giving him the recognition he deserves, but you upgrade your own feelings towards other people and you become a better human being.

Sometimes you might find it difficult to say “Thank you.” But I would like to urge you not only to recognize the good in others, but to elevate your own self by saying “Thank you” at every appropriate time.