Monday, January 3, 2011

Say the words

A few things you never want to hear.
  • "Hey, did you scrape the snow off the windshield yet?" from your pilot.
  • "Wasn't the street right here?" when you're ready to get in the car.
  • "Oops, we've got three less tools on the tray than we had going in," from your surgeon as he or she sews you up.
Everyone thrives on sincere praise. We stand a little taller with a "Well done!" from our parent or our boss. We like to hear the new outfit looks good on us. For those of us who have begun to exercise or changed eating habits, it's nice to have someone notice the pounds melting away or our firmed-up silhouettes.

It surprises me how hard it is for some people to give compliments. They want to be noticed, but never pass along a nice word to others. 

Sometimes parents critique little details of progress in their child. What's our response to: "Look, Mom, I put my red skirt with this blouse. I think it looks great, don't you?" or "Here's a drawing I made for you in class."

Are we inclined to "help" with these words? "Well, I think the reds are a little off and don't match." Or, "Those stripes don't go with that pattern." The child would walk away crushed, when it would have cost so little to the parent (and meant so much to the child) to be affirmed.

Some people are generous only to manipulate, compare themselves favorably, or when it is in their best interests. "I noticed you were still working at 7.30pm last night. I was writing my report until 8. What a late night, huh?" Or, "Your suit looks good. I saw one just like it at Nordstrom Rack on the weekend. I bought this there." Or, "Cool that your son hit a fastball during the game. My son caught two pop flies, too. What a great team."

Likewise, some bosses control their employees with criticism, intimidation, and unrealistic expectations, ensuring failure and a dread for the job. Eventually the employee gives up trying to please or achieve, not giving best efforts, clocking in and out to collect a paycheck. In retrospect, this memory is really funny: one of my supervisors pointed to the tissue box on her table during my initial interview, remarking that I would be in her office crying, at some point of working for her. "Just expect it. Everyone cries in here." When I asked why, she said she sometimes made people cry because they thought she was harsh.

"What?! I don't think so!" snapped my inner dialogue. I remained cautious ever after, anticipating words from someone accustomed to dominating rather than supporting her team.

In contrast, God speaks good things without coercion or hidden agendas. He is openly delighted in his children and unstinting in his kindness to those who know him.
  • "I love you because you are mine, but I sent my Son to die for you even before you knew me."
  • "Ask and you will receive, knock and the door will be opened."
  • "Confess your sins and I will forgive them."
  • "I send the sunshine and rain on the good and the evil."
In this year, let's put effort into noticing others at work and rest. How about affirming carefulness in dress, hospitality, and friendships? Let's speak words that lift and support, carry and enlighten. Let's be unstinting and generous with praise to everyone, saying thanks where it is due. 

We might occasionally notice some of those words coming back to heal our own hearts, too.

Read more:
*The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 NIV

*"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:18-19 NEV

*Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 NEV 

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