The Benefits of Gratitude and Saying Thank You

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"The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly know to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he puts in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?"

GK Chesterton at his best (in Orthodoxy).

"Thank you" is a very natural social response - well it's not all that natural, it needs to be taught to Children, but they quickly see the benefit of a gratitude attitude once they start to do it. Indeed the whole society in a nation benefits when children learn to say thank you. It is an extremely progressive thing, I argue that it is more progressive than any school.

In that way gratitude becomes, after childhood, a natural response. It enables supermarkets in Sweden to install check-out scanners to their shopping trolleys so there is no queue to pay when you have finished shopping. It is not the technology, the resources or the education that prevents the same system being installed anywhere in Africa... It's the attitude of thanklessness that prevents it. The lack of appreciation leads, obviously, to depreciation. Depreciation of goods, currency, work, and, most importantly, people.

But that is a mere side point. The real point of Chesterton's quote above is the human need for giving ultimate thanks. The biggest danger of atheism is the toppling of the house of cards by the removal of the very first card, the fragile "oikos of ethos". If I don't have to thank God for my legs why should I have to thank mom for my supper?

Truly Theism has it's own biggest danger, it is the danger of political and unaccountable control over vast numbers of people. Strangely though atheism, as a national policy, has the same danger, as George Orwell pointed out so magnificently (although probably accidentally) in Animal Farm.

The atheist explains this need to give thanks as some residue of evolution; some left over bits of code from ancient instinct programmed in under such dire survival that reason has not, on it's own, programmed it out... yet.

Presumably, when the rest of humanity as caught up to the reasoning capacity of the pure atheist, the need will be removed. and what a day that will be. I pray that I will not be alive to see it. I take courage with the thought that it is a very long way off at the very worst. Most likely it will never happen... Because the need to give thanks is not actually an instinct of evolution, it is something much more fundamental than that.

It is a spotlight in the dark cavern of the truth, it shows us something that we knew was there all along. And when we remove it, in it's ultimate sense, we, as a generation, may continue on with the little candles we have individually lit with the power and heat of its beam, even forced upon us in our youth, it's advantages we take for granted. But the next generations will have neither the beam nor the candles. They will not only turn from God, as the atheist fondly hopes, they will turn eventually from gratitude. They will turn not just from the light, they will turn from light itself.

But thankfully, that is not likely to happen any time soon. Because most will respond quite honestly to their own need, and will spontaneously give thanks, as they always have done.

Some may even find that their efforts are reciprocated by the object of their thanks. Some will even give thanks for simply being able to give thanks!

Just a passing thought. You may feel obliged to tackle me, and Chesterton, of the fact of Santa Claus' non-existence. If you do you, have no argument from me because you fail to see the point; you miss the vastness of the heard by focusing on the fact of the reindeer.


Posted on Dec 19, 2008
Posted on Dec 14, 2008