Did you find that gift I left? I asked Liz, sheepish.
It had been three months since I delivered the gift, a family read aloud
. Our boys had loved the Easter adventure and I hoped Liz’s kids would too. But I hadn’t heard from my friend. Had they started reading it, or even found it?
We know as Christians we’re to give expecting nothing in return. We know if we give to be seen by men, we have received our reward in full. We know that the Father sees the hidden gifts, and that our reward is heaven.
We know. We get it. And sometimes we’re weak.
My last post was a tribute to praise. It was in praise of the pleasure we feel when we aim to please another and do. It was also a call to heed Proverbs 31:30 because A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
But it was a guarded, wary praise because love of human praise can enslave. Praise can turn idol. What we worship becomes our God. Inordinate desire for praise leads us to sacrifice at that altar.
Even with those distinctions, a niggling question remains:
Is it ever okay to fish for a compliment?
The subject still strikes a nerve. Last month, our ladies’ life group split right down the middle. Never, said some. How will you know unless you ask, said others. You’ve received your reward, came the reply. What about “Help the weak”? another asked.
Where do you fall? Do you ever find yourself biting your tongue and wondering, Didn’t they notice? Does he have a clue how hard I worked to put that meal together? Does she know what I gave up to watch the kids?
We itch and sometimes we can’t resist scratching. So we fish for compliments and angle for thanks. I’ve been there, and truth be told, I return from time to time. Ask my husband and Liz-if you must.
Not so fast, you eye-rollers. C.S. Lewis lets us in on a little secret about the anglers among us:
The vain person wants praise, applause, admiration, too much and is always angling for it. It is a fault, but a child-like and even (in an odd way) a humble fault. It shows that you are not yet completely contented with your own admiration. You value other people enough to want them to look at you (Mere Christianity, Book III, ch. 8).
The grades, awards, and stellar performance appraisals at work fed me. They told me I was worth something, that I contributed meaningfully. As SAHMs [Stay At Home Moms], we don’t get this regular feedback. Well, we get feedback, but it generally doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves. We get tantrums and turned up noses at dinner.
So what do we do in the interim? …When I really need someone to tell me I’m doing a good job, I ask for it. People cannot read my mind. When I need reinforcement, I ask, “Did you like dinner? Did you notice I scrubbed the floors? How do they look?” Yes, this is fishing, but it helps. When I’m feeling desperate, it gives me the pat on the back I need to feel like my day was worth something.
But, as I mature, my dependence on these kudos wains.
I love her honesty. My friend Jess admits her fishing is a desperate measure, borne of weakness. But she’s maturing in Christ. She’s growing in faith. And growth means less dependence on man’s praise.
Both weaning and growth are gradual. But, we can help each other grow up in the faith. We are called to present each other mature in Christ. To that end, I offer these tips.
For fellow anglers:
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24) Ask the Spirit to convict you if your fishing is borne of pride or greed for praise.
2. Then wait.
The Lord is good to those who wait for him (Lamentations 3:25). Wait and wait until it hurts; longer than you thought you possibly wait. Then, baited in humility, go fish. Realize you might not catch. She might not like the gift, he might not care for your cooking. Be meek, ready to “take no.”
If you catch your compliment, you’ve had your reward. If you get the praise now, you forfeit the righteous reward later. And even if you do land a big one, remember, It is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the LORD commends (2 Corinthians 10:18).
Non-anglers, you’re not off the hook. You’ve got some responsibility, too. Sanctification is a community project.
For you who love us anglers:
1. Help the weak, be patient with all (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Take the bait. How well-chosen words can nourish a weak soul. One son needed a little extra praise to get over his double-digit borrowing hump. He got bigger ‘atta boy’s and more feedback than the stronger student. Go out of your way to praise the good done in fear of God and love for man.
2. Strengthen his hand in God.
That’s what Jonathan did when David needed encouragement. Try to tie your praise to God’s promised blessings for those who keep his way. It might sound like, That is good of you to open your house. Your hospitality pleases God (Hebrews 13:16).
3. Help the weak, be patient with all.
Resist the bait. Sometimes silence may be better help. If you discern that’s a better help. If you discern flattery on your part, or greed for praise on his part, help by withholding. Jesus did. Martha, Martha, you are concerned over many things, he said. But Mary has chosen the better.
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