Compliments and Encouragements

At our staff Christmas lunch ‘Secret Santa’ gave me a collection of 365 ‘pick-me-ups’ to help me have ‘a really great day’. So, on January 1st, I decided to give this ‘Compliment A Day’ a try.

  • Day 1: ‘You are on top of things’.
  • Day 2: ‘You are so in control of things today – it’s uncanny’.
  • Day 3: ‘You’d better know how to take a compliment because the way you look today they’re gonna come thick and fast’.
  • Day 4: ‘You’re just brimming with confidence today’
  • Day 5: ‘Today – only the sky’s the limit’
  • Day 6: ‘You are just the bee’s knees’
  • Day 7: ‘Damn – you look like sex on legs!’

The following week the compliments continued to about:-

  • Day 8: ‘You are definitely firing on all cylinders
  • Day 9: ‘You can’t help being this popular’
  • Day 10: ‘Damn you’re good!
  • Day 11: ‘You are drop dead gorgeous’
  • Day 12: ‘You look fantastic – knock’em dead’
  • Day 13: ‘Is that a new outfit? Because you look great’
  • Day 14: ‘Look in the mirror right now, because what you’ll see is damn fine’.

And so the compliments go on – and on.

  • Day 46: ‘Trust your own judgment because you are a born leader
  • Day 47: You have so much to say, people are hanging on every word
  • Day 48: How can people not love you – you’re amazing
  • Day 49: Your judgment is always spot on

Needless to say, this pad of ‘pick-me-ups’ no longer adorns my desk. It is all too pseudo – and all too often untrue. Of course, there is a place for praise and encouragement, but there is no for make-believe and self-adulation.

Not surprisingly, this collection of ‘pats on the backs’ comes from the USA. Americans tend to be positive, affirming people. We Brits by contrast are all too often negative, critical people – we love to ‘cut down the tall poppies’. Instead of boosting others, we seem to like nothing better than destroying the reputations of others.

I shall never forget my first experience of Spring Harvest, the Easter holiday Bible teaching event. At the very first meeting of speakers and helpers, one of the leaders challenged us to major on the positive. Instead of being critical about the sessions, he asked us to find something positive to say about the sessions. And amazingly, this was what happened. By the end of the week I seemed to be walking on air. It was such a wonderfully affirming experience.

According to William James, ‘The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated’. Yes, we all need to be appreciated – we all need encouragement. The fact is that few of us remain on a perpetual even keel. We all have our ups and downs. What a difference a word of encouragement then makes.

I am reminded of a legend, which told of how one day God decided to reduce the weapons in the Devil’s armoury. God told Satan that he could choose only one ‘fiery dart’. Satan chose the power of discouragement, on the ground that ‘if only I can persuade Christians to be thoroughly discouraged, they will make no further effort and I shall be enthroned in their lives’.

Although but a legend, it does point to the desirability of regular encouragement. Indeed, rather than a false daily ‘compliment’ taken from a pad, what about looking for an opportunity to encourage a different person every day, by focussing on something positive in their lives and thanking them for it. In so doing, we will but be following the Scriptural injunction to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5.11: see Hebrews 10.25)

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