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The Christian Call to Say 'You're Welcome'


Jun 6 2014
How we respond to thanks matters.

A friend recently told me about one of her resolutions. Not for the new year—we were well into March—but a certain habit had gotten under her skin. "I've decided that when someone says,'Thank you,' I'm going to say, 'You're welcome.' It's a moral issue."

A moral issue? Really?

Yet, the more I think about what she said, the more I think she's onto something. Driving in my car, I hear NPR hosts thank each guest, and most respond with some version of "my pleasure," or the subvert the thanks with "no, thank you." We rarely hear the straightforward "you're welcome," and when we do, it usually comes from men.

It may seem like splitting hairs to make these distinctions between mannerisms that often come instinctually. There are issues of far greater importance in terms of how we live and what we say. But this remains an important point: Saying "you're welcome" is both an act of responsibility and hospitality that we who love God ought to embrace. It can be seen, in some circumstances, as the forgiveness of a debt.

Our landlord always sets aside our newspaper when my husband and I are out of town. It's a small but kind gesture, and in our quid pro quo economy, he could ask something of us in return. But he does this small kindness with no aim for recourse. "Thank you so much," I said on returning from a recent trip to Lake Tahoe. "You're welcome," he replied. He could have said, "No problem," or, "It was nothing," or, "Of course," and I would have understood what he meant. But it wasn't nothing; he created value for me. And I am grateful.

This is what I mean when I say that saying "you're welcome" is an act of responsibility. When we add something of value to someone else's life—when we bless them (which, by the way, never needs to be hashtagged, but that's another post)—we bear some responsibility for our own actions. We have created good, and good is not created apart from the work of God. To say, "No problem," or, "It's nothing," is, in some way, to shirk our responsibility.

Interestingly, several versions of "you're welcome" in other languages—like de nada in Spanish and de rien in French—literally mean "it is nothing," or "of nothing." In my opinion, this is where language falters. (Even Emily Post agrees.) What we do for each other isn't nothing, it's the foundation of community.

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