Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Benefits of Praise

The uses of praise was the topic of conversation recently among some priests who were eating together. The Daily Life and Faith Life column of the Catholic Times brings the topic to our attention with its headline: "Praise Makes Whales Dance." The column goes on to say that it makes people positive and helps them to think positively, noting that the priests had decided, following their conversation, to be more active in its use.

One priest mentioned a teacher he had in grammar school some 40 years earlier. He not only remembers his name but much more. It was the teacher's example that showed him the value of praise. In grammar school, the class had the task of making a small cloth pouch. On the outside, he wrote 1+2=3. The pouch was not that well made nor was much thought given to the outside lettering, but the teacher, seeing his careful scissor work on the borders, praised him for it.

It was not an overall "well done" or "good job" type-of-praise to the whole group, but the teacher made it clear to him that it was something special in his work that was singled out for praise. Otherwise, it would have been forgotten as unimportant, as simply polite words. This was the first time he had been singled out for something he had done and praised for it. He has never forgotten it.

However, it is easy to abuse the use of praise; it has to be merited and honestly given. When used authentically, both the one praised and the one praising are moved, keeping in mind that it is not praise for the sake of praise but to help someone grow. This use of praise is common to humanity. In the States, Mark Twin is quoted as saying that he could live two weeks on a compliment. We can also say, sadly, that criticism can bother us for as long a time, if not longer.

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