Don’t Save Your Praise

I just wanted to let you know how very polite your boys are. They were a pleasure to have over yesterday.

Did she mean our sons? The ones who’ve driven us to our knees more in the last month than in the full decade before? Those boys?

But then that text came through. Totally out of the blue.

Good words matter. So let them flow.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

Jan will never know how much those words meant. She had no idea what we’ve been going through.

She’ll never know how heartening it was to get that text- that praise- on this day. Her words were the FUEL TWO MILES AHEAD sign on the desert highway when the gas gauge has been on empty for twenty-nine. In fact, not many words could have been sweeter this season of fiery-hot parenting.

We already know this. We know that praising the praiseworthy is a right powerful thing to do. But I just couldn’t pass up the chance to shout from rooftop: Your praise matters. Shout-outs and kind words really do make a difference. 

If we see someone do something praiseworthy, let’s call it out. Maybe in private, maybe in public, but let’s make a habit of praising. Don’t let it stop at just a thought. Don’t save it. Let’s don’t passively neglect the positive. 

Years ago, my very affirming sister-in-law Mary Jo told me, I don’t ever want to let a compliment sit in my head. I let it out so it can bless. Mary Jo lives this. And I want to be like Mary Jo. Don’t you?

I don’t want to just think how scrumptious her baking, how calming her voice, how clearly he presents, how patiently he explains. I want to tell her. I want to thank him.

Praise bears lots of precious, powerful fruits.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21

There are great reasons to praise the good, beyond the reality that it just plain feels good. It feels good to praise and it feels grand to be praised. That’s a win-win. Add in the God-honoring factor and it’s a trifecta. It’s praise perfected.

But in case you missed the longer post, I refer you to Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation. This master affirmer offers three key reasons why we ought to make praise a practice.

1. We praise people because God is honored when we honor what he honors. Praising people, by calling out where God is at work in them, glorifies God. All that is commendable in people is commendable because it is an expression of Christ. And we’re to exalt Him and called to praise His wondrous works. That is why we were made his people, to declare his praises (1 Peter 2:9).

2. We praise people because we want to encourage others in doing good. What is praised gets repeated. Which might be why the kid who is starved for praise at home and school goes to the gang for applause. When we praise the good we see in others, as echoes and reflections of Jesus Christ himself, people are affirmed. They feel loved and fed. And odds are they’ll seek to repeat that good.

3. We praise people because praising the good in others brings us joy and renews us. We become sensitized to see the good, and our minds are renewed. What’s more, we lift the morale and build relationships. All our relationships- at work and at home, in friendship and marriage- benefit when we shout out what’s good. Our mouths become fountains and out joy flows.

Plus A PerkYou gain a hearing. People who practice praising build a platform from which to be heard if criticism must needs come. But if you’re a Ms. Nitpick or Mr. Fault-finder your hard words, no matter how well-intended, will likely fall flat to the ground. Calvin wrote, We readily believe those whom we know to be desirous of our welfare…Our goodwill…is made manifest by commending them when they reflect Christ. Our praise earns their trust.

Our words have the power to transform. They have, writes Crabtree, the curious and uncanny power to make living things die or bring dead things to life. Proverbs 18:21 makes that plain. Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits. 

So here I am eating the fruit of Jan’s kind words tonight. In a way, you are too.

Jan had no idea that her simple two-sentence text after her son’s party yesterday would have the power it did to restore my hope today. Talk about a power-packed, life-giving fruit.

So don’t save your praise. Speak it now instead.

Do not save your loving speeches 

For your friends till they are dead;

Do not write them on their tombstones,

Speak them rather now instead.

-Anna Cummins