Gratitudes of Friendship
by Mrs. Chana Silver
I have been friends with a certain girl for a long time. We have really been there for each other through thick and thin and we really connect in a deep and meaningful way. But there is one area that I feel on her part is just lacking. She doesn’t really acknowledge much of what I have done for her – from the smallest things to the very big and life kinds of things. Obviously a major part of any friendship – is the concept of giving – which, as I understand, ultimately connects people. So we both do give in varied forms to each other – but what bothers me is the fact that she hardly ever acknowledges the things I have done for her. In the past, I have thanked her many times for what she has done for me etc – and when I do this, I mean it in a heartfelt way – even the tiniest of things! But she doesn’t seem to reciprocate in this. It seems to me that she feels she has just done so much for me – and whatever I have done for her – just isn’t even worth mentioning. It is like she is so haughty! [in this area] This is unfair and untrue – and I have certainly done a lot for her in so many ways. I do resent this a lot – while at the same time – I care so much for her – and as I said, we are very close friends.
I’m not ‘counting’ who does what for who – but it would be nice to have the acknowledgment.
What should I do? Is gratitude sooo important? Please help me to gain some insight into this and how I should be looking at it.
Dear Jemsem Reader
You bring up a very pertinent and important issue! Hakaras Hatov is really a big deal in the realm of Bein Adam L’chaveiro.
It is also a very connected topic to Chanukah – as that is the Hallel and thanksgiving that we praise Hashem with for saving us in the dire situation of the events during the Bayis Sheini and Yavan.
If we learn to appreciate the things that people do for us – so that is a stepping stone to having gratitude to Hashem for every single minuscule thing that He does for us in our lives.
Why is it so difficult for us to thank someone who has done something for us? Because it means we were needy in some way. We weren’t self sufficient. It takes a humility. Not everyone has that in them. Acknowledging that you were deficient in some way and that you are indebted to someone else can be very hard for some people. It is probably rooted in a lack of self esteem, and not haughtiness, as you mentioned.
Hashkafically speaking, from the giving end of things, you should know that [as Rabbi Pliskin says in Gateway to Happiness] that the less gratitude you receive for doing a kind act, the greater the value of the act. True kindness is when we do not receive anything in return for what we do. Instead of feeling resentment and hurt toward the person who is ungrateful, focus on how your kindness towards that person is more altruistic. Your extending toward that person – no matter on a small or large scale, then becomes a great opportunity to do a true act of kindness, and Rav Yechatzkal Levenstein says in Kovetz Inyamin, that the merit of good deeds done without acknowledgment is far greater than good deeds done when you receive honor for them. So, it is important to keep this mindset open when your friend doesn’t seem to thank you for the things that you have done for her.
And also to know, that every single small and minuscule thing that you do for someone – no matter how utterly tiny it may seem to you – counts infinitely in shamayim! Even a small greeting to someone or things worded carefully to give a bit more kavod to a person help gain eternity for you in the grand scheme. All things count and matter before the Ribono Shel Olam even when they don’t get acknowledged by others. This is so important to keep in mind, especially when others don’t come through in the ways that we want them to.
As far as a persons obligation of gratitude to those who have helped them in one way or another – well, it is a very big deal. Don’t be remiss! Express your gratitude in words and deeds. It shouldn’t be just lip service, but a deep inner feeling of how this person has helped you. You should be grateful to those who have helped you in the biggest of ways – to those who have only helped you slightly – and everything in between. Train yourself to meaningfully express it. Build this middah up with in yourself. You will only be a bigger person for it!
I want to share a personal story:
Many years ago [like in the 70’s] My parents [who were ba’alei teshuva from the South] had someone over who was in college at the time and very secular who didn’t know anything about his Jewish roots. My parents home was an open, warm, Southern, and at this point, frum home. This young man had a wonderful and meaningful time in my parents home. Because of this, he eventually went on to Yeshiva, became wonderfully frum, and is raising a beautiful family of Bnei Torah today.
. Starting from the very next year [He first came over on Pesach] Erev Pesach, he called my parents to thank them for opening his eyes to Judaism and his new life. He did the same with a Dvar Torah on Erev Pesach the year after that, and every single year since then. Every time it was a heartfelt, sincere thank you, with a new Dvar Torah of Hakoras Hatov. Well, My Father died 20 years ago, but he continued each year to call my mother with a deep feeling of appreciation. My Mother died 15 years ago. 14 years ago, I got a call from him on Erev Pesach! [We speak in between as well – and I am close with his family] But this is his official Hakaras Hatov phone call. He continues to call me Erev Pesach every single year to this day – and the story 1st happened in the 70’s!!!! Don’t think that his words are stale and old – They are fresh, heartfelt, and meaningful. He continues, even after all these years, to deeply acknowledge what my parents did for him. He is an absolutely enormous individual! I have the utmost respect for him.
Lifnim Mishuras Hadin? Perhaps. I certainly don’t know too many people like that. But here is a person who understands just how important gratitude is, and he takes it to heart [ as well as all other things in his life, as you can imagine!]
So, my advice to you is to become a role model for your friend and others in the area of gratitude, try not to choose a mindset of resentment to her for what she hasn’t expressed. By you, coming through and showing your feelings of Hakaras Hatov, you’ll not only be fulfilling the mitzvah of bein adam l’chaveiro by praising her and giving her kavod [as the Rambam brings in Hilchos Da’os], but you will also be building yourself in the finest of ways.
A challenge to all of you:
Think of someone who helped you in some way even if it was years ago, that you never thanked, or perhaps they didn’t know how much something they said or did had such a big impact on you, and contact them in some way – by phone, text, email, snail mail – and thank them! Will you feel a bit silly, maybe, but get over it – because YOU WILL MAKE THEIR DAY, OR THEIR WEEK OR PERHAPS THEIR MONTH! We all want our actions to be meaningful to others, so just imagine how this will make them feel, especially, if the incident happened a while ago………
YOU CAN MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE! ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT OTHERS DO FOR YOU, AND DON’T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED!
Wishing the Jemsem Readership a Lichtig Chanukah!
With Warmest Wishes,