VALUES AND METHODS OF PRAISING
T. PIERCE BROWN
Although I am totally opposed to the idea that our preaching and teaching must be of such a wishy-washy, generalized platitudinous nature that our listeners neither know what is wrong in their lives nor how to correct it, I strongly urge all preachers and teachers to consider the scriptural basis and psychological and pedagogical values of the proper kind of praise for the proper kind of attitudes and action at the proper time.
While recognizing the value and necessity of the admonition of Paul to “Reprove, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2) and that the One who loved us above our ability to comprehend said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev. 3:19), my thoughts today deal with another scriptural theme — the value of proper praise.
We can not read the Bible without seeing that God is set forth throughout as One to be praised and honored. Why? It is because He has superlatively done that which is worthy of praise! There are some who seem to think that since God deserves all that praise, men do not deserve any. But Paul says in Rom. 13:7, “Honor to whom honor.” We not only have the right, but the responsibility to give honor and praise to those who ACT in a praiseworthy manner. Even when Solomon presents a negative side, the positive is evidenced when he says, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth, A stranger, and not your own lips” (Prov. 27:2) The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:28-30 is not the only one who is to be praised.
Paul practiced what he preached in this respect, for even in books like 1 Corinthians when he rebukes severely, he abounds with expressions like “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:4). In most of his books, there is repeated praise for good attitudes and actions.
If I remember correctly, some years agoDukeUniversitydid a comprehensive study of groups of students whose wrong answers were marked as wrong with a big red X, and other groups whose right answers were marked as right with a check mark. Even this slight indication of commendation of those that are right instead of criticism of those that are wrong made a marked and significant difference in the effort, attitude and grades of the students. Those who felt COMMENDED for being right were significantly better in all areas than those who felt criticized for being wrong. Note carefully a very important point: Both groups knew which answers were right or wrong. The different response was simply in the METHOD by which they were told!
We challenge you to try this principle in your teaching, training and raising children. It will work wonders! If we had space, we could give you many specific examples. I confess that I have probably leaned far more heavily in my preaching toward reproving, rebuking and exhorting, but that in no sense negates the value of what I am here advocating. I also recognize that there is a danger in many of us, if we recognize that we have “leaned” in one direction or the other, to then “lean” in the other direction. May God help us not to do that, for if a man has been sarcastic, nasty, mean, hateful and bitter for forty years, it will not correct that to be so soft, sweet, and “loving” that he can see no wrong in anything for the next forty years. The way to correct a wrong is to simply quit it and do what is right, not to try to balance it with an equal amount of wrong in the opposite direction!
One other aspect of praise needs to be mentioned. It is my very strong judgment that praise should given far more sparingly with regard to those qualities, characteristics, abilities or possessions one has inherited or received automatically than for those one has gained through making the right choices and acting upon them.
For instance, I have three granddaughters and a grandson who are outstandingly beautiful, brilliant, and/or handsome. It is not too difficult for them to discover that, especially since most of their close relatives gush over every trivial statement or action. Of course it is proper for me to thank and praise God for allowing me to have a wife whose children and grandchildren are so wonderful. But they do not need to be praised or reminded of that constantly, even by such an unbiased and objective observer as their grandfather! But they DO need to be praised and rewarded for tasks well done, duties performed properly, commendable attitudes that are actively evidenced. “Well done, good and faithful servant” is not to be said simply to a five-talent man, but to ANY person who uses his talents wisely and properly.
Solomon was NOT commended simply because he was wise. He was condemned because, being wise, he acted like a fool! Note: God commended and praised him for his conscious choice of desiring wisdom. But it is not the HAVING it, but the USING of it properly that deserves praise. So it is with beauty, brains, or wealth. Praise the proper use of them at the proper time, in the proper way, and you will see great benefit therefrom.