AS the mother of three teenagers I am learning many lessons about my parenting, and about my faith, through them.
For instance, one of my biggest issues with one of my teens is the lack of common courtesy, including please and thank you.
The lack of those two little words turns our relationship from parent/child to lackey/entitled ingrate. I don’t mind vacuuming floors, ironing clothes, making food or picking kids up from school, but a simple ‘thank you, Mum’ gives me great pleasure and the impetus to keep doing these things day in and day out. It says my child sees me, and acknowledges my small act of service as something I chose to do, not ‘had’ to do. It affirms my dignity.
I don’t need gifts or gushing praise, or even a hug (although they’re a rare gift from a teen) but just two or three words said sincerely is enough.
That got me thinking about a spiritual parallel. I believe there is a God and that He is my heavenly Father. Do I thank God enough for all He does for me? Do I treat God as my lackey, expecting Him to provide food, air, peace, answered prayer, health, and so much more, without so much as a ‘thank you’?
Am I gratefully aware that EVERY good thing I have comes from Him? Am I grateful for each day, for each breath, for unseen protection? Even the stuff I think I have earned is really because He gave me the ability to think, create and function.
So many people are quick to blame the God they claim not to believe in when things go wrong, but do they offer thanks for everyday mercies and unexpected little miracles?
And do I just expect all the good things to continue? I have sometimes wondered about the point of prayer, since God, by definition as the all-knowing, all-powerful controller of the universe, knows better than we do what we need at any given time. But now I think I realise that He wants us to pray to acknowledge our dependence on Him by saying ‘please’.
By humbly asking we are reminding ourselves that it all comes from Him, that the most important things in our lives we can’t manufacture or buy, and that every day we desperately need the goodness of God.
And gratitude benefits the giver as much as the receiver, because gratitude fills us with contentment for what we have, banishes our self-pity and helps us to focus on the positive, improving our mental health. It also strengthens our relationships and (take note teens) means that people are more likely to do stuff for us next time!
Those three little words, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – sometimes I think they could change the world.