It’s rare that reading a book will almost immediately begin to change my behavior, but right after reading the introduction to Rod Wilson’s Thank You. I’m Sorry. Tell Me More, I began to say thank you more often. (I wasn’t yet at the “I’m Sorry” and “Tell Me More” parts.)
Gratitude is the first characteristic Wilson delves into here, a quality, he says, that should characterize all Christians. This easy-to-read book is mostly stories and anecdotes that flesh out one of the three sayings in the title. What struck me most about the “thank you” segment is how Wilson makes a case for saying it often and well, even to people who are “just doing their jobs.” I think of my son who is a waiter at an upscale restaurant. Though he does encounter gratitude, he often faces entitlement (the opposite of gratitude). “Gratitude is an excellent ointment for the abrasion of excessive complaints,” Wilson says.
The next section, “I’m sorry,” was harder, especially when our culture likes to say “never apologize.” The key, says Wilson, is to offer “quality remorse” rather than a “hit-and-run apology,” although that can be a start. Quality remorse means listening to how our actions have affected another. “To repent is to reassess, rethink, and reconsider with a view to change your mind. It is less focused on feeling bad about the past than on thinking of a new window into the future,” he writes. Don’t over-apologize either, he says, which is good advice.
Finally, “tell me more” addresses the antidote to rugged individualism and self-centeredness. In the past, I have used this phrase when I don’t get what someone is saying or to pry more details out of my teenager. These aren’t bad uses of “tell me more,” but this phrase can go much deeper. “If we believe in the sacredness and significance of other people’s stories, we'll give them the gift of listening attentively to their stories,” Wilson says. This means not drumming up a solution to their problems as they are talking. It means going beyond the label we assign to them (Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, for example) to get at the real human being underneath.
I liked the gentle, equanimous tone of Wilson’s writing. Because in these toxic times, “In many ways, both the right and the left have succumbed to a way of being that keeps the articulation of “thank you,” “I’m sorry” and “tell me more” to a minimum.” Ouch! And so true. This short but powerful book would be perfect for church councils, book discussion groups, and small groups.
Thank You. I’m Sorry. Tell Me More disarms and enfolds through stories rather than just telling people how to behave better. Saying these three things regularly “affirms our kinship” to others. If we began to say them regularly, “Our inherent connectedness with one another would be a cause for celebration, as we saw all others as fellow offspring deserving of our gratitude, remorse, and care.” (NavPress)