Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 13: “Faith for a Harmonious Family” [13.2]
13.2 The Miraculous Words “Thank You”
Being able to have deep appreciation for everyone around us is proof of our human revolution. Appreciation for others accelerates that inner transformation.
“Thank you” is a miraculous expression. It energizes us when we say it to others, and encourages us when we hear it said to us. I am constantly saying “Thank you” from morning to night, every day. When I travel abroad, it is the one expression from the language of the country I am visiting that I always learn and use. Whether it is “Thank you,” “Merci,” “Danke,” “Gracias,” “Spasiba,” or “Xie xie,” I put my whole heart into expressing my appreciation, looking the other person in the eye as I do so.
When we speak or hear the words “thank you,” the armor falls from our hearts and we communicate on a deep level. “Thank you” is the essence of nonviolence. It contains respect for the other person, humility, and a profound affirmation of life. It possesses a positive, upbeat optimism. It has strength. A person who can sincerely say thank you has a healthy, vital spirit; each time we say those words, our hearts sparkle and life force wells up within us.
Having gratitude and appreciation for the countless people and things that support our lives—that awareness, that feeling, that joy—will invite even greater happiness. Rather than being thankful because we are happy, being thankful itself will make us happy. Also, chanting with gratitude puts us in rhythm with the universe, turning our lives in a positive direction.
When we cannot say thank you, our personal growth has stopped. When we are growing, we can see how wonderful others are, too. When we stop growing, all we see are other people’s faults.
At home, instead of trying to change your partner or your children to your liking, why not start with a simple “thank you”?
There is a women’s division member who suffered from dementia in her later years, and she was unable to remember even the names of her family members. But when the doctor asked her what was the happiest moment in her life, she immediately responded: “When my daughter was born. I was so happy!” Hearing this, tears welled up in the eyes of her daughter, who was standing nearby. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you, mother. That was all I needed to hear.”
The daughter reflected on how she was always scolding her own son. “Yes,” she thought, “how happy I was when he was born!” Yet, over the years, driven by some mental image of an ideal child, she had tried to mold her son to fit that form, thinking only of where he didn’t measure up to the ideal and dwelling on his shortcomings in one respect or another. Still, in spite of how demanding she was, her son tried his best to live up to her expectations. He was kind to her. As these thoughts came to her, she was overcome with gratitude toward him. “Thank you. I’m just happy you are alive and well. I’m just happy you’re here beside me. Thank you.”
She saw her son with fresh eyes, and suddenly she had so many reasons to be grateful and happy. After all, though it was hard getting her son out of bed in the mornings, he would eventually get up, even if it was sometimes at the last minute. That, in itself, was an amazing thing. He may have been a little picky about his food, and he may not have been at the top of his class, but she was just grateful he went to school and wore a bright smile each day.
She was grateful for everything, even when nothing special happened. She was grateful for each day that passed with her family safe and well. She realized that taking so much for granted had been a symptom of a deep and pervading arrogance on her part.
Similarly, there are people who, when diagnosed with a serious illness, realize for the first time just how much they have taken their health for granted and never appreciated all that they had.
I hope that, every once in a while, you will look your partner in the eye and say thank you. Instead of eating dinner together in silence, take the time to express your appreciation. It may seem a bit embarrassing at first, but try it: you’ll see how it changes your life.
From an essay series “Life Is Wonderful,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, May 29, 2004.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.