Why Show Appreciation?

“Dear Raquel,

Thank you so much for being a source of encouragement to me. Even though you may not know it, your upbuilding nature and kind words have meant a lot.”—Jennifer.

HAVE you ever received an unexpected note of gratitude? If so, such an expression no doubt warmed your heart. After all, it is natural to want to feel valued and appreciated.—Matthew 25:19-23.

Expressions of thanks tend to deepen the bonds between the giver and the recipient. Furthermore, a person who shows appreciation is following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who never failed to notice the fine works of others.—Mark 14:3-9; Luke 21:1-4.

Regrettably, personal expressions of gratitude, verbal and written, seem to be increasingly rare. The Bible warned that during “the last days,” men would be “unthankful.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 2) If we are not alert, the pervasive lack of gratitude evident today could smother any tender feelings of appreciation that may rise in us.

What practical steps can parents take to teach their children how to show appreciation? To whom should we express our gratitude? And why should we be appreciative, even if those around us are unthankful?

Within the Family Circle

Parents work hard to provide for their children. Sometimes, though, parents may feel that their efforts are unappreciated. What can they do to remedy this situation? Three ingredients are necessary.

(1) Example. As with most aspects of child training, example is an effective teacher. Regarding a hardworking mother in ancient Israel, the Bible says: “Her children speak well of her.” Where did these children learn to express gratitude? The remainder of the verse provides a clue. It says: “Her husband also praises her.” (Proverbs 31:28, New Century Version) Parents who express appreciation to each other show their children that such expressions give pleasure to the recipient, improve family relationships, and are a sign of maturity.

A father named Stephen says, “I have tried to set the example for my children by thanking my wife for dinner.” What has been the result? “My two daughters have noticed this, and it has helped them to be more aware of showing gratitude,” says Stephen. If you are married, do you regularly say thank you to your mate for doing daily chores that are easily taken for granted? Do you say thank you to your children, even when they do what is expected of them?

(2) Training. Feelings of thankfulness are like flowers. They need to be cultivated to produce the best results. How can parents help their children to cultivate and express appreciation? Wise King Solomon highlighted one key factor when he wrote: “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.”—Proverbs 15:28.

Parents, can you train your children to think about the effort and generosity behind any gifts they receive? This type of meditation is the soil in which appreciation grows. Maria, who has raised three children, says: “It requires time to sit down with your children and explain to them what is involved when someone gives a gift—that someone thought about you personally and wanted to show how much they care about you. But I feel it’s worth the effort.” Such conversations help children to learn not only what they should say when expressing appreciation but also why they should say it.

Wise parents help their children to avoid feeling that all the good things they receive are somehow owed to them.* The warning found at Proverbs 29:21 about dealing with servants applies with equal force to children: “If one is pampering one’s servant from youth on, in his later life he will even become a thankless one.”

How can very young children be helped to show appreciation? Linda, a mother of three, says, “My husband and I encouraged our children to contribute to the thank-you notes we wrote by drawing a picture that could be included or by signing their name on the card.” True, the picture may be simple and the handwriting unrefined, but the lesson children learn from this act is profound.

(3) Perseverance. All of us have an inborn tendency to be selfish, and this inclination may stifle expressions of thanks. (Genesis 8:21; Matthew 15:19) Yet, the Bible urges servants of God: “You should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will.”—Ephesians 4:23, 24.

Experienced parents know, however, that helping children to “put on the new personality” is easier said than done. Stephen, mentioned above, says, “Teaching our daughters to say thank you on their own, without prompting, seemed to take a long time.” But Stephen and his wife did not give up. “With much perseverance,” Stephen continues, “our girls learned the lesson. Now we are proud of the way that they show gratitude to others.”

What About Friends and Neighbors?

When we fail to say thank you, we may not be ungrateful, just forgetful. Is it really that important for us not only to feel appreciative but also to express our gratitude? To answer that question, consider an incident involving Jesus and some lepers.

While traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus encountered ten men who had leprosy. The Bible relates: “They raised their voices and said: ‘Jesus, Instructor, have mercy on us!’ And when he got sight of them he said to them: ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Then as they were going off their cleansing occurred. One of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice. And he fell upon his face at Jesus’ feet, thanking him; furthermore, he was a Samaritan.”—Luke 17:11-16.

Did Jesus overlook the failure of the others to express gratitude? The account continues: “In reply Jesus said: ‘The ten were cleansed, were they not? Where, then, are the other nine? Were none found that turned back to give glory to God but this man of another nation?’”—Luke 17:17, 18.

The other nine lepers were not wicked men. Earlier, they had openly expressed faith in Jesus and willingly obeyed his instructions, which involved traveling to Jerusalem to show themselves to the priests. However, although they no doubt felt deep appreciation for Jesus’ kind act, they failed to express that appreciation to him. Their conduct disappointed Christ. What about us? When someone treats us well, are we quick to say thank you and, where appropriate, to show appreciation by sending a written note?

The Bible says that “love is not ill-mannered or selfish.” (1 Corinthians 13:5, Today’s English Version) Therefore, sincere expressions of appreciation are not only a sign of good manners but also an evidence of love. As the incident involving the lepers teaches us, those who wish to please Christ owe such love and appreciation to all, regardless of their nationality, race, or religion.

Ask yourself, ‘When was the last time that I thanked a neighbor, a workmate, a schoolmate, a hospital-staff member, a storekeeper, or somebody else who helped me?’ Why not keep a record for a day or two, marking down the number of times that you actually do say thank you or write a thank-you note? Such a record may help you see where you can improve in expressing appreciation.

Of course, the one who deserves our thanks most is Jehovah God. He is the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present.” (James 1:17) When was the last time that you sincerely expressed appreciation to God for specific things he has done for you?—1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18.

Why Show Appreciation Even Though Others Do Not?

Others may not reciprocate when we show appreciation. Why, then, should we express gratitude even though others do not? Consider just one reason.

By doing good to those who lack appreciation, we will be imitating our gracious Creator, Jehovah God. The fact that many do not appreciate the love Jehovah shows does not stop him from doing good to them. (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9, 10) He makes “his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” If we endeavor to show appreciation despite living in a thankless world, we will prove ourselves to be “sons of [our] Father who is in the heavens.”—Matthew 5:45.

[Footnote]

Many parents have read and discussed with their children the book Learn From the Great Teacher, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Chapter 18 is entitled “Do You Remember to Say Thank You?”

[Blurb on page 15]

Keep a record for a day or two, marking down the number of times that you actually do say thank you

[Picture on page 15]

Even young children can be trained to express appreciation

[Picture on page 15]

Set an example for your children in expressing appreciation