Why say these words? Please? Thank you? One writer says they came from a time when there was a sharp distinction between Commoners and their “betters.” “If you please,” and, “I thank you,” came in as a way to assume an equal standing in the markets when there really was none. Each gave the other equal respect, and business went on more smoothly.
In much the same way marrieds might say, “I love you,” at the oddest times. They might be tired, frustrated, or even angry. Loving feelings of any kind might be the farthest thing from their minds. By affirming what they don’t feel (but doesn’t love go far beyond mere emotion?) they assure the other of a needed respect, and that assurance allows the relationship to go on more smoothly.
Confucius pointed out, though that such expressions go far beyond putting a calm surface on the waters. In fact, they are acts of creation. When I tell my wife, “I love you,” it is not so much about how I feel as it is creating in her the sense of being loved – of being someone worthy of love. We can say, “please pass the potatoes,” that is, “in respect for you as a person, I am asking that you reach me the potato bowl.” We can also just say, “pass me the potatoes.” One is likely to create an inner response, “I’ll be glad to,” while the other, “and who are you?” Respectful words create respect; rude words, resentment.
Another word, not as common in the West, is, “Namasté.” It affirms equality, but on a much higher level. Rather than limiting to the common humanity, as with “please” and “thank you,” it recognises a shared, higher, and deeper, humanity. It says, in effect, “the divine in me honors the divine in you.” Not merely, “I love you,” but, “the love in me recognises the love in you.” The Tao of Prayer is about discovering and nurturing that love, and that divinity.