Great…another poster to affirm my fantastic awesomeness.
Have you ever seen this picture before, or one like it? I found this in a store and said to my wife, “Oh, hang on, I have to get a picture of this.” I try to look for good blogging material out in the field. And I was not disappointed!
My emphasis for this post is not to monologue on the critiques of “everybody gets a trophy” or “let’s just all hug and feel good about ourselves.” What I would like to do, though, is to prod some thought about the notion of praise and when or how it is actually useful.
You do not see in the scriptures where I am praised or made to “feel awesome” merely because I exist. Only God is awesome merely in existing.
Though I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), knowing the Gospel helps me to understand my broken state and that I am a horrible savior for my own life. Hence the need for Jesus to step in and make a way.
Indiscriminate praise to remind myself of my own uniqueness, or being crazy good, fantastic, or bodacious (as the picture states) usually ends up falsely inflating my ego or causing me to sink into a “blah-ness.”
The reason that this happens is because praise without “supporting documentation” is like eating frosting without the cake…it tastes good at first but pretty soon it causes you to feel sick.
It does not make you feel how you thought you would feel.
As leaders of influence, one of our key roles and responsibilities is to use praise in its God-intended form so that those we lead are built up and sharpened due to the very intentional words or praise that we are using.
And so here are four ways that you can use praise with others that are neither artificial nor patronizing but rather authentic and life-changing.
Use praise when those under your care take their ordinary and make it extraordinary
Remember the woman described in Proverbs 31? She was what you would call a stay at home mom or a “home manager” (and I will add that this is a very critical role in the nurturing and shaping of our kids). But if you read the chapter, you will find a woman who is noticed not just for keeping the home.
She was praised because she took what seemed ordinary and absolutely hit a home run in her creativity, industry, care, and love. She was a woman to be praised.
Use praise when those under your care make good or wise decisions
Remember Solomon? When he literally had the world at his feet for the asking, he chose wisdom: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (I Kings 3:9)
And God praised Him – and did not just say, “Nice, Solomon.” but rewarded him as well as gave affirmation that Solomon’s choice of wisdom was not only good but best.
Use praise when those under your care are good stewards of what they have been given
In Matthew 25, there were three stewards who were given property to watch over. The servant that simply maintained what he had been given was actually criticized. The other servants who multiplied what they were given were praised. And notice this: though each of the two earned back different amounts, each was praised for how he stewarded what was under his care.
This is an important point. Output does not have to be identical to receive identical praise.
Use praise when those under your care do the unexpected
In Luke 7, there is a servant of a centurion who is sick and close to dying. Jewish leaders come running up to Jesus to ask if the Master will heal her. As Jesus gets close, the centurion sends friends to Jesus. They tell him to not trouble Himself in coming. The centurion believes that the mere words of Jesus can heal this servant. A personal visit is not necessary.
Jesus praises this centurion and declares, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
Are you awesome just for existing?
Do you notice something unique about each of these examples? The praise given was not for just for “being awesome” or “being amazing” out of sheer existence.
Now please, do not takeaway from this that I should not affirm those around me and that “only actions will please me.” I am not saying that at all.
What I am saying is that praise has been so overused without association to a trait or an action that it ends up meaning nothing or very little to the person receiving it.
As leaders, it is going to take our being aware and engaged with those around us to notice what is worthy of praise. And as I stated that praise has been over utilized, I believe that praise based on what I have delineated above is underutilized as well.
Praise is designed to point something out and not just be because of a state of existence. That is reserved for God. He exists and therefore is praised.
As His created beings, praise is something designed by the Creator for us to use with each other when we exhibit a quality or characteristic that looks like the Creator or His son Jesus.
Read the four examples again that are listed above and notice that all are qualities, traits, behaviors, or actions that mirror in human form something that points to God. Something that He values. Something that He is.
To use praise otherwise leads to either false conclusions about oneself or an empty feeling because the praise was used for something other than its intended purpose.
I do not need posters that tell me, “Hey, and don’t forget how amazing you are today!” Words matter. And how praise is used matters. Let it be about the right reasons. Truly build others. Truly grow others. And look for those opportunities.