One Sunday morning, I noticed our children's director supervising three small children. I stopped long enough to say, "Eric, I appreciate your ministry to our children. Many parents choose a church based on the quality of education and care given to their children and grandchildren. You're doing a great job, and I really appreciate you."
Later that week, I received a handwritten card from Eric telling me how encouraging my words were to him.
Examples of Gratitude in the Bible
The Bible is filled with the concept of expressing gratitude to God and to others. If gratitude is to benefit those for whom we are grateful, it must be expressed. Paul, the Apostle, said to his friends in Philippi:
"I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" .
Paul was thankful to God for what his friends had done—and he actually wrote a letter thanking them, assuring them that when he prayed for them, he prayed with great joy for what they had done.
The old saying, "It's the thought that counts" isn't true. As long as the thought remains in your head, it accomplishes nothing. But when it motivates you to express gratitude to someone, it becomes fruitful.
What many people fail to understand is that gratitude can be expressed in many languages. Do you speak any of these languages?
1. Words of Affirmation
There are many ways of expressing gratitude through words of affirmation: verbally as I did with Eric, and through emails, text messages and handwritten letters or cards.
Whatever method you choose to use, words of affirmation are powerful expressions of gratitude. The ancient Hebrew proverb says, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).
2. Giving Gifts
Recently I attended a memorial service for one of our church members. A woman there said, "Betty was one of my best friends." Then, she pointed to a bracelet on her wrist and said, "Betty gave it to me. She was wearing it one day, and I commented on its beauty. She took it off, handed it to me, and said, 'I appreciate your friendship so much, I want you to have it.'"
Betty was speaking the language of giving gifts. For many, a gift speaks much more deeply than words. The gift is a constant reminder that they are loved and appreciated.
3. Acts of Service
The third language of gratitude is acts of service—doing something as an expression of gratitude, such as mowing the grass for a friend who means much to you and who is no longer able to do that chore. Or using your computer skills to help someone who is two steps behind you technically but perhaps miles ahead of you in another area.
This language involves taking the skills God has given you and using them to speak appreciation to someone. It communicates, "I appreciate you, and I want to help you."
You may remember the old saying, "Actions speak louder than words." For some people this is true. They cherish acts of service as expressions of gratitude.
4. Undivided Attention
We all are busy. This is why spending time with someone whose gratitude language is undivided attention speaks volumes.
There are many ways this language of gratitude can be expressed, such as inviting a friend to your house for dessert or attending a ball game with a grandchild. The purpose is to communicate gratitude by taking time to get to know them better. You are giving a portion of your life to that individual. For many, this is the clearest language of gratitude.
There are no touchless societies. Appropriate touches communicate I care about you, I appreciate you. In our culture, these touches may be pats on the back, high fives, fist bumps, and appropriate hugs. With younger grandchildren, it may be letting them sit on your lap as you read them a Bible story. For some, affirming physical touch is a powerful indicator that you appreciate them.
Every person in your life has a dominant gratitude language. By nature, we speak our own language. So check out the sidebar "Language Study" for tips on discovering the primary gratitude languages of others. Learning to speak those languages can improve your relationships at home, at work, and at church. In the process, you'll become a better communicator of the overflowing love of God.