Cultivating Thankfulness: Writing Thank You

If there is anything that has been lost over the years, it is the art and rhythm of writing thank you notes. When was the last time you personally wrote a thank you note? When was the last time you received a thank you note? My grandmother was a home economics teacher for years, which meant that there were things she was very particular about, and one of them was writing thank you notes. My mom, in turn, inherited her “particular-ness” in several areas, this being one of them. I cannot even begin to recall the number of times I have heard my mom tell me, “Be sure you write them a thank you note.” I was blessed to have a mother who taught me to write notes to thank people for the things that they had done or given me. So, I want to help you make the most of this November by encouraging you to write a few thank you notes and hopefully giving you a few things to help you in that process.

The Biblical Example 

Of the 13 letters that the Apostle Paul wrote, did you know that nine of them open by saying thank you (Romans 1: 8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 1:4)? Paul thanked God for his friends and what they had done or were doing regularly. While I wouldn’t describe Paul’s letters as “thank you notes,” I would say that Paul knew that it was important to say thank you. As we looked at last week, saying thank you is one way we can fight our selfish tendencies and pride. I think Paul’s purposes in saying thank you extended beyond his own personal sanctification, though. Paul knew what expressed and written gratitude would do to the recipients of these letters to hear him say “thank you.” Writing a thank you note is not just about acknowledging a gift, action, or person, it’s a way to encourage someone. Paul was thanking God for these people and their faith or service, not just to thank God, but more so to encourage them. When you sit down to write a thank you note, don’t just mechanically say “thank you.” Instead, consider the opportunity to encourage them and build them up. Say “thank you,” but use the opportunity to say more and to do more.

What’s the Point of the Letter?

The whole point of a thank you note is to acknowledge what someone has done for you. That could be thanking them for a gift given to you but that doesn’t have to be the only reason you say thank you. Thank people for their support, encouragement, voice on your behalf, doing the right thing, paving the way for you in some capacity, etc. If you start to get this, you will realize that writing thank you notes is not just about acknowledging gifts but it is about growing a heart of generosity and care for those that God places in your life. I try and write somewhere around 25 thank you notes a week. I write these notes usually in direct response to something but I also write notes to people who have indirectly done something for me. It could be an author who wrote a book that helped or encouraged me, it could be a pastor who preached a sermon that edified me, it could be something from the past that I remember and I want to thank that person for what they did, or any number of situations. As you write more thank you notes, you will realize that the point of the letter is more than just saying “thank you,” it’s also that you are hopefully becoming more thankful. The discipline of writing these notes will reorient you not just by helping you realize how much others do for you, but also by helping you see how gracious God has been to you in your life. This will make you more thankful overall.

The nuts and bolts

You obviously want to say the words “thank you” in your letter but you want to say more than that. Share how their gift or act has impacted you. Share how the Lord used them and their gift or action in your life. Thank you notes shouldn’t be long but they should be long enough. You need to convey not just your appreciation but also the impact of the reason for the note on your life. It should be personal, pointed, and powerful. Take time to sit down and think about the person you are writing, think about the reason you are writing, and think about how you can esteem and encourage them through what you are writing.

One more practical suggestion, think about how you can invest in them through this note. I will quite often include a verse or quote in my thank you note to hopefully give them something to think about as I am saying thank you. I think it often makes my notes stand out because they aren’t just saying thank you but they also are in some way seeking to bless the person reading them.

Lastly, don’t forget the details. Get some nice stationary. Use a good pen. Write legibly. You want them to be able to read what you have written so slow down and take your time. Think about the words you are writing and try to not use the same words or phrases too many times in your letter. Let it be your voice but be intentional in the way you write and what you write.

You can buy a pack of thank you notes from Wal-Mart or Target for less than $10. There is no excuse for not saying “thank you.” At the end of the day, most of us forget to say thank you because we are too consumed with our own lives. Don’t miss the opportunity to bless those who have blessed you. Don’t miss the opportunity to encourage those who have encouraged you. Don’t miss the opportunity to say thank you. Sit down right now and think of a few people that deserve a thank you note and write them today. You never know how the Lord will use your note or how He will change your heart in the process.