To Thank or Not to Thank?

Leslie and I have a disagreement we’d like you to help us settle.

Since Owen arrived, our family has been inundated with a gracious overabundance of gifts from coworkers, family, friends, friends of family, friends of friends, friends of coworkers, friends of coworkers’ friends, family’s coworkers, family friends of friends of family, and complete and utter strangers (Make no mistake: I am not exaggerating). The outpouring of love and care for us has been truly overwhelming.

In keeping with her fine upbringing and her acute understanding of social etiquette, Leslie has spent an incredible amount of her time as a new mother writing thank you cards (over 150 now, with two baby showers yet remaining). Leslie’s take on this seems to be that if a person can be so gracious as to go out and take the time to find a gift for us, spend their own money, and attend a shower for her and Owen, then the least she can do is send a small token of thanksgiving in the form of a thank you card. Hers is a truly selfless and praiseworthy attitude.

I think thank you cards should be outlawed and cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Make no mistake – as I said above, I am truly overwhelmed by the response from our family, friends, coworkers, church, etc. Obviously, it’s not giving to which I am deeply opposed. It is, rather, the social convention that makes it almost incumbent upon a young, tired, time-strapped mother to spend hours and hours developing carpal tunnel syndrome just so that someone can be assured that we’re thankful for their generosity before said thank you card goes directly into the trash (unless, of course, it spends a week magnetized to the fridge before its inevitable journey to the trash, which is a rather small consolation), rather than catching up on sleep, Bible reading, other neglected reading, and maintaining our home.

I suppose, in the end, from my perspective, I would rather have the giving of the gift be its own reward and joy. If I send you a gift and you don’t send me a thank you card, if I have any degree of regard for your character whatsoever, I already know you’re thankful, and I would like to offer you the additional gift of not having to take the time, expense, and physical duress of writing me a thank you note, which I would no doubt otherwise promptly discard.

So, help us to resolve this question. What’s your take?

(DISCLAIMER: Leslie did not approve this blog post, and will most likely have some choice words for me about it this evening.)

NB: In retrospect, it was probably a mistake to write this post today, as it will surely overshadow the (much more important) previous post.


29 thoughts on “To Thank or Not to Thank?”

  1. This is easy dude. You have to write the thank you’s. I hated it but yo have to do it. And sorry to say it but you might want to pick up a pen. They don’t have to be Hemmingway like. Plus We wouldn’t want L. getting any kind of “syndrome” or she may develope something where she can suudenly no longer cook dinner.

  2. Ditto on Jesse’s comments. Not to rub it in… but for one of my wife’s showers the person who hosted had everyone write their name and address on envelope so all she had to do was write the note and not the address as well. It was great. As for you, Good luck buddy

  3. Alright-

    Well, there is going to be several points that may not be in some coherent order, but here are my thoughts:

    I too HATE thank you notes. Mostly because growing up, they were almost a punishment rather than something one does when he/she is thankful. I grew up in a family where 2 things played into this.

    1. My mother was a freak. To this day she apologizes for it, but she was a freak. In order to write a thank you note, we first published a rough draft which she corrected and handed back to us. If we were lucky, the first one would make it to the final draft stage, but most of the time, we went back to the drawing board for a second rough draft and then the final draft. So
    not only did we have to write a lengthy “news-filled” note, we had to write it 2 or 3 times!

    2. My grandparents were relentless. If they didn’t get a thank you within 2 weeks of giving the gift, they would call. They would ask if we even got the gift, making it incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. And causing us to make up some story as to WHY we hadn’t written to them yet. To this day this is the case with them.

    Therefore, whenever I give a gift, especially at a shower of some sort, I tell the recipient quite frankly, “You do not need to write me a thank you note. Please don’t.” I was there to see them open it. I know they were thankful. I know they got the gift. I don’t need them to write some dorky note to me.

    Being who you are (I hate those words) and the fact that people like my grandparents do still exist and the fact that socially, it is still something that is looked upon as proper, you probably need to write some thank you notes! Since we got married, I have written over 650 (yes, I wrote that right) thank you notes – including showers (baby and wedding) and the wedding itself. It was BRUTAL, but my husband did help and it took almost a year after our wedding to get those ones out, but we did it and I could walk down the halls of the church without having to wonder if I was going to run into someone I forgot to thank.

    That’s life dude – pick up a pen and do some writing. :o)

  4. I enthusiastically agree in principle! But in practice it still seems like a cultural hat tip that isn’t quite passe. I tweak the custom a bit by sending thank you notes electronically, which is more efficient on all accounts. 🙂

    (I expect a thank you note for leaving this comment.)

  5. Thanks for this post bro.

    I found your blog as a link of a link of a link one day and subscribed, and I’ve been learning from you ever since. So don’t stress, there’s no reason you should know who I am :0)

    But yep, I so totally agree with you on this…

    When my wife and I got married, we were both working full-time jobs, and trying to lead all the youth/children at our church. Plus we were in process of buying and moving into a house.

    Needless to say, we were pretty slow sending out our thank-you notes.

    I can’t tell you how many people called our parents to tell them how rude they thought it was that ‘two months have gone by and I still haven’t received a thank you note’.

    It has been such a frustrating experience. It’s probably nothing but my flesh, but when I hear that aunt so-and-so got her feeling hurt because I didn’t send her a piece of paper acknowledging her gift, I want to figure out what she bought us, write a check for what it cost, and no longer be ‘indebted’ to her.

    Yet, like Jesse says, the popular consensus seems to be, “just do it”…

    I have, however, learned one application point from this whole experience: whenever we give a gift for something now, we’re careful to write in the card that a thank you note is not necessary :0)

    Ah well… thanks for the chance to vent. I can’t do this on my blog, since we still owe thank-you notes to some of our readers ;0)

  6. The person who came up with thank you notes should also be cast into the outer darkness. Many a weary new father/mother, bride/groom, birthday boy/girl (ok you get the picture) has had to sit down and put pen to paper to express their eternal gratefulness for the thoughtful onesies, precious moments figurines, rolling pins, and $1 bills.

    All that being said – write the notes (and that means you too, as already noted). Be brief. Set a goal of “X” notes per day and just get it done. You can’t go out and play ball until they are done.

    And don’t be afraid to print labels for the addresses. That’s what printers were invented for.

  7. My question: why do you stop at just one thank you card? Why isn’t there a thank you card for sending a thank you card? In other words, Person A gives Person B a gift. Person B sends Person A a “thank you” card. Person A replies with a “thank you” card for the received “thank you” card. Person B then sends a “thank you” card in return… and so on. Where does it stop? aaaaaaaaaaaahhhh

    Moral of the story: ban all “thank you” cards or logically one will write them until the Lord returns.

    Actually, if one were to tell me that hell consists of writing “thank you” cards all day, I wouldn’t be too skeptical. I wonder if that was Paul’s “thorn.”

  8. jesse – you’re wrong.
    king family blog – you’re wrong.
    anonymous – you’re wrong.
    andy – you’re less wrong.
    zach – i thought you were going to be right, but you ended up wrong.
    softball steve – started out right then ended wrong.
    darius and elisabeth – you’re right!

    i can’t believe this is even an issue. the obligatory thank you note is worthless.

    this is what our thank you cards should say.

    “thanks for the gift. since the only reason you gave me the gift was so that i would respond with thankfulness, I understand that this gift is truly about you. therefore i am thanking you for the gift that i just returned to target for cold hard cash to buy beer because i don’t want a gift that was only given to build your esteem. the beer tastes very good and i am actually thankful for the beer…so, indirectly – thanks!”

    thank you cards should only be written out of extreme sincerity and if it is that sincere wouldn’t you want to call them or drive to their house to thank them personally? let’s be real and expect people to grow up!

    note: bryan did not endorse this comment.

  9. hey Bryan… I know exactly what you’re going through-I can relate 110% You won’t be able to talk her out of it- it’s something hardwired in. Men are programmed for football and women are programmed for thank you cards.

    If she wants to do it than let her go for it. And like the other Jesse said you may want to pick up a pen and help her. She obviously is sincere about it if she insists on going to all the trouble.

    just hope that either a) you don’t have any more kids or b) they don’t give any more gifts after the first one.

  10. I don’t write thank yous to people I thank in person. I don’t think you technically have to write thank yous if you thank in person, though it’s always nice.

    I admit, however, to being one of the most lax thank you note givers ever. I’m just not good at it. I am good at the actual notes, but the organization required to get it done is the hard part. I have quite a few thank you notes sitting around my house somewhere–already written, still not sent.

  11. after a good night of sleep and discussing the issue with my wife I will recant some of what i said.

    i was tired and because of my lack of tact I wrote

    “i can’t believe this is even an issue. the obligatory thank you note is worthless.”

    i do not believe thank you notes are worthless. if the notes are still in the unwrapped package and you have a receipt you could return them to target for cash. then you could buy beer with the money that you received from the return thank you cards that you were going to write to the people who gave you selfish gifts that you returned for beer.

    sorry for my crass comment last night. it was uncalled for and sloppy. again, thank you notes are not worthless.

  12. Thank You’s aren’t my thing either, but they are a fact of life. However, I feel for you in that you are getting an overwhelming amount of gifts and meals from many people. Why not send a birth announcement/photo card and just jot a small thank you for the gift rather than one long note? People love seeing a picture of your baby and getting the birth facts and then a quick thanks. That said, please pass on to Leslie that we don’t need a thank you, we will like you just the same either way.

  13. OK Vince is hilarious! He has officially converted me from a “you have to write the thank you notes” to “MMMM beer is good.” Good work Vince and thanks for helping me see the light!

  14. Thank you notes are a must in my context. Unless, of course, the person tells you emphatically not to send a thank you note. When I give a gift, though, I don’t tell people not to send me a thank you note. I don’t care if I get one, but when I get it, it serves as a reminder to me of what a good friend they might be.

  15. Thank you notes do make sense when the gift is mailed – it lets people know that you received the gift and that it wasn’t lost in transit.

  16. wow…never realized little paper cards could elicit such vitriol. Seriously though – the authentic expression of thanksgiving whether in the form of cards/phone call/etc = holy and good. Cultural expectation of a mandatory thank you card which causes prideful desire in the giver for recognition = evil.

    Maybe i’m the only one, but I love writing thank you cards (obviously, I really am bored and have nothing better to do).

  17. LOL @ vinces response. LOL that thank you cards need be cast out where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Here’s an idea – I had some friends that simply did photo card thank yous for their wedding. You know, the kind you print off at your local pharmacy. It was super cute and they didn’t get carpal tunnel syndrome, with the exception of having to write all the addresses on the envelopes. Everyone got a nice card with a wedding photo of them that said “Thank you for being a part of our special day” or something like that. Brilliant, no?

  18. Wow – lots of response. Bryan, we just went through a very similar situation with the Thank You note deal. A couple of comments (sorry if I repeat):

    1) Thank You notes are for presents or money, not for cards, notes, OR Thank You presents.

    2) To not send a thank you note demonstrates a lack of gratitude in our society. Sorry. Change the culture if you want, but in a me-oriented, materialistic society, thank you notes are one place where we can be reminded that I don’t deserve something that I just received.

    3) Carrie has been to quite a few of these things for other people. What really breaks my heart is when there isn’t much of an out-pouring due to a lack of friends and supportive family. Often times with such blessing comes a good deal of work.

    4) With those who demand Thank You notes: deal with that on an individual basis. However, that doesn’t remove your obligation to do the right thing – which is to communicate thankfulness. If you feel that isn’t the right thing to do, give the gift back and explain why.

    5) Thank You notes are an opportunity to connect with people (as is the gift giving). Example: Cora received a present from my 6th grade Social Studies teacher, which I haven’t seen since the 6th grade! She was quite curious to see what we were up to and so forth. A non thank-you kind of slams the door at her attempt to connect.

    Byran, I know I sound harsh, but you gotta do it. Think of it as an opportunity to shine for Jesus. Shun the advice of Vince; ignore the cans of easy-beer now and look forward to the kegs of doing-right-thing beer that you can enjoy while your hand is on ice from all the writing.

  19. todd had to bring the whole “shine for Jesus” argument in. i will have to think a bit about his comments. he may be right-ish.

    i want to hear leslie’s rationale.

  20. What a bunch of wimpy men we are, not willing to stand up to the etiquette police and say “NO MORE THANK YOU NOTES (please)!”

    We have piled on Bryan long enough for now (most comments ever here?). I will second Vince’s movement that Leslie should be allowed to offer her rebuttal to the original post, or at least a recap of the choice words she had for him. Of course, she probably doesn’t have time due to all of the thank you notes that she is writing (and Bryan is not).

  21. That last comment makes me ask: Bryan, are you not contributing to the writing of the thank you notes? If not, why is a wordsmith like yourself not willing to follow the apostolic example of giving thanks? You asked for this!

  22. wrote the first comment, now it’s my turn.

    If a person thinks “hum, I never got a thank you from so and so” they think about themselves way to much. I have never written a thank you in my life and I am not sure if I ever will. Also I beg you, DO NOT SEND ONE TO US!!! I will be very sad if I get one in the mail knowing that one of you had to take the time to do that. We are simply not worth the effort.

    To tell you the truth I think the entire greeting card industry is an absolute scam. And they keep getting more and more sappy and more and more $$.

    I have a friend who graduated from college and got a card from his brother-in-law. The photo was a litter of puppy’s sleeping on the front. Inside he wrote “nothing like a pile of dead puppy’s to say congratulations”.


  23. maybe its too late to comment..

    Looking back on my wedding 5 years ago, of which I only completed Thank-you’s to gifts I was *extremely* thankful for (higher priced, most needed etc) and old people (due to the fact that they’re usually the ones to complain about not getting one).. however, i still wrote a ton of thank-you’s. As a newly wed then, we had just spent every last dime we had on our wedding, only Joe was working, and I was a full time student… no extra money. we ended up spending about $60 on stamps, thank you cards, envelopes, and not to mention all the TIME it took to do them.
    It is exactly what you don’t need at the time. in which case, almost worthless. I would be happier knowing that there was more time spent using the gift than writing the thank you. especially in the case of new parents! the last thing you need is another item on the to-do list!
    I say, for your remaining thank-you’s… take a bunch of white cardstock about 4 1/4″x 5 1/2″ stick it in the printer: on the front, it says ‘THANK YOU’ in some nice font. and on the inside it says in large font ‘we really appreciate your generosity’ and then sign your name, stuff it and send it 🙂
    no need to write out long letters!
    write to those you feel you should write to. 🙂

  24. Amy –

    I think your opinion on the matter of thank you cards brought out another cultural issue: you spent everything on the wedding.

    Point #2: You were thankful for the rich people’s gifts.

    Please correct me if I have misspoken.

  25. I find myself in the somewhat unfortunate position of having received a Thank You note from your wife and now feeling guilty about it. Does that make all of her effort now in vain?

  26. witty girl – I wouldn’t feel guilty about giving someone a gift. I don’t think Leslie was the one who had any sort of problem sending the thank you notes. For all we know (since she has been silent), maybe she actually didn’t mind or even enjoyed writing them. Bryan is the suck around here (being a suck is a Canadian euphemism for “stick-in-the-mud” that my wife sometimes uses).

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