The double-edged sword of thanks

2020-10-17 · 336 words

Saying “thank you” is an incredibly powerful act if done correctly. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of some truly sincere gratitude, the emotions that it can trigger are powerful. If it happens to me, I often don’t know what to say, or try to laugh it off. But knowing my effort has been acknowledged still fills me with pride.

Saying “thank you” is very easy to do. Saying it in the right way and at the right time can be difficult. It might come across as shallow or insincere, or as belated afterthought. It might be seen by both sides as a substitute for the true good that should have been done.

Looking around my local area, I still see signs that say “thank you NHS” (the UK’s National Health Service). During the long days of April and May, pavements would be decorated in chalk proclaiming the same, and people would stand outside to applaud week after week. This all seems like a good type of thanks and I’m sure that many people were sincere. But not everyone.

How many of those applauding people, I wondered at the time, were the same people who would dispense casual racism when discussing immigration of those same key workers that they were supposedly thanking? Or who would choose to vote to sever ties with their continental neighbours and retreat from the international stage? Or who would vote for a party led by a liar who also stood outside applauding the very people he was putting in harm’s way, and whose government had spent the past ten years eroding their preparedness?

Sometimes saying “thank you” is all that is needed to make someone feel valued, and that’s all they need. Sometimes saying “thank you” is empty, opportunistic and selfish.

We should all show our gratitude when it is deserved. Sometimes thanks is all that is needed, but not always. Sometimes actions are required and it’s not always easy. That shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing.