Day 25 in Proverbs
Proverbs 25:27 “Don’t eat too much honey or always want praise.”
I think my nieces and nephews (and my godchildren and the other special “kids” in my life) are amazing. They really are. But sometimes I find myself praising them for things that I don’t want them to find too much pride in. Things that the world tells them are most important, but in my value system really aren’t. It’s probably pleasing to their ears, but I don’t want it to stick in their brains. It’s a struggle.
Biggest example, they are all gorgeous. Our world may tell them that good looks are an important quality, but I don’t want them to believe that themselves. But yet I find myself telling them too often how beautiful they are. Which is true praise (because I am not a believer in offering cheap praise I don’t mean), but shallow. I hope they are comfortable with how they look, but also hope they don’t obsess over it. If I praise them too much, will that become an obsession? Will they obsess over every carbohydrate and spend hours of their life looking in the mirror and taking their own picture? (Uh-oh….they do that now) Will they shy away from living life if they gain a few pounds? Will they spend large sums of money on clothes and shoes and makeup and beauty treatments and plastic surgery so they become plastic people with no identity of their own? Will they compare their looks to others and assign relative values to people based on looks? Will “pretty” or “handsome” be the identity they crave? There is so much more to them than that.
Or when I tell them they are smart. They are smart…all of them. But if I say it too much, will they start to believe they are smarter than most other people? Will they start to feel that their opinions are better, that they already know it all, will they start to disrespect people who they think are not as smart as they are? Will I damage their thirst for knowledge….their desire to learn for a purpose? Will their lives be about grades, but not about learning and thinking and applying what they know? Will they have a lot of knowledge, but have no wisdom?
Or the sports stars….sometimes they have natural talent and it is not easy to overlook. It’s exciting to see. But if they get too much praise for this, will they start to worship at the altar of athletics? Will they become the team show-off instead of the team player? Will they think that if they don’t win a game or make a team, they are a failure?
Or the talented. Some are talented singers, dancers, actors, artists, mechanics, crafters….will they start thinking that this in itself makes them special? Sets them apart from the untalented ones? Makes their star shine a bit brighter? That their gift is better than a less shiny one?
I’m all in favor of praise….and I am sure I will continue to tell these young people in my life (and the old people in my life) that they are beautiful, smart, great athletes and talented. But I hope they take it in stride. I hope those are not the things that they choose to define them. I hope I praise them more for being kind, thoughtful, brave, caring, justice-seekers, champions of the underdog, problem solvers and world changers. I hope they don’t just coast through life….I hope they live it fully and with purpose.
While praise is great….we can’t live for it. We can’t let it be the thing that drives us. We need to watch that we’re not centering our lives around it and hanging out with those people who tell us the things that will puff us up and make us think we are special, or have our days ruined when they don’t. Because while we are special….so is the person next to us. Fearfully and wonderfully made. I guess we can keep it in context by hearing the praise and thinking “Is this something that God would praise me for?” Maybe that should be our reality check. And the praise that we build our life around.