It’s easy to fall in love with it; it makes us feel good. But it can be a trap for the unfulfilled heart. I’m referring to the compliments that we all receive when we’ve done well. Without them, the world would be a sad place, but it takes discrimination and courage to accept praise fruitfully.
When I tutored a writing group, I was always pleased when the supervisor said that ours was the most successful class at the Community House…especially when others were there to hear her say it! There it was: the temptation to think beyond the compliment, to feelings of superiority. A poor attitude for a person who knew that she needed God to run the group!
Sometimes, when I’ve created something, I’ve thought, I hope they like it. Will they say I’ve done well? I know my gifts and I enjoy using them. They are the things that God prepared way ahead for me to do. (Ephesians 2:10) I ‘see’ myself walking along a country road, gathering parcels that have been left in the grass, hidden there just for me! But, I shouldn’t look for a permanent audience to stand there and applaud!
John Chrysostom, a saint from the fifth century AD, said, ‘I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but be distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised’.
Can desiring approval become an addiction? There must be a better way to accept praise. It’s a talent many people have, and they should be allowed to use it. We all like to be told that we’re valued; none of us want to be taken for granted. God doesn’t either. Although the Bible is full of instructions to praise him, he doesn’t need it to make him a better person. He’s perfectly fulfilled already. We praise him for who he is, and for the way our hearts fill with love for him for his many blessings.
Bob Mumford, a Bible teacher, once mentioned how people complimented him on his sermon as he greeted them at the church door each Sunday. He used to reply that it was the Lord who should get the glory, but later, he began to simply smile and say, ‘thankyou’. When he arrived home afterwards, he’d go into his study with his collection of appreciations, and say, ‘Here are all your compliments, Lord’.
I’ve been talking to God about this and he’s given me some advice: instead of doing things for myself in order to be praised, (a subtle difference), I should remember that I’m doing things for him and for others. I thought I was, but I hadn’t seen it quite that way before!!
So how do we handle all the compliments that come our way from appreciative, blessed people? It’s not easy for a person whose love language is ‘words of affirmation’! It’s not the approval that’s the problem; it’s how I manage it that matters. That’s where I need the Holy Spirit’s help. If I ask him, he’ll ‘operate’ in my mind and change my focus. My prayer is that I will accept praise with joy so it will cause me to be fruitful in every area of my life.