“PRAISE IS EASY CHARITY
One of the nobler aspects of human nature is the fact that we find pleasure in being of help to other persons. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. There are individuals who are too self-centred even to see the needs of others, let alone minister to those needs. Most of us experience a brief inner glow, however, when we know that some word or act of ours has eased another’s burden.
More often than not, a vocation to the priesthood or religious life begins with a youth’s vision of the great good he or she can do in bringing souls to God and to happiness. Many – if not most – young people who study medicine are motivated by the challenge of easing suffering of their fellow men.
In such professions as nursing and teaching, where the material rewards are so meager, only the pleasure of helping others can account for the recruits who annually flock to these callings. Peace Corpsmen and lay missionaries are other examples of this almost universal urge to lighten our brother’s load.
SMALL DEEDS OF NEIGHBOURLINESS
Most of us, by reason of our circumstances, have to be content with less noticeable acts of mercy – the small deeds of neighbourliness which are scattered through our days. Of this we can be certain: a person who rarely does anything to bring joy or relief to another, is a very unhappy person. He cuts himself off from one of life’s greatest satisfactions.
A SIMPLE TOOL
This being so, it is surprising that so many of us neglect a remarkably simple tool for brightening the lives of others. This tool, so available and so often ignored, is the word of praise. It costs nothing to speak a word of praise. Yet most of us are stingier with our commendations than we are with our money.
To appreciate the happiness-potential of praise, we have only to recall how quickly our own morale rises with a pat on the back. ‘That was a good job you did.’ ‘That was a smart idea you had.’ ‘You handled that situation beautifully.’ ‘You have such excellent taste.’ How our spirits do soar on the wings of a sincere compliment!
WHY ARE WE SO STINGY WITH PRAISE?
Why are we so miserly with our words of praise? Some times the reason may be envy or jealousy – basically pride. It hurts us to admit that anyone can do, say or think something better than ourselves.
More commonly, however, it is a matter of thoughtlessness. It just doesn’t occur to us to speak the laudatory word when the opportunity presents itself. Perhaps we take it for granted that the person already knows that he is clever or capable. Or we may be so unobserving that we do not even notice that a friend or acquaintance has said or done something a little above average.
WATCHING FOR OPPORTUNITIES
If we wish to make a habit of spreading happiness through praise, we have to learn to watch for opportunities. Once we begin to seek for such occasions, we may be surprised to discover how often other persons do commendable deeds or exhibit laudable traits.
It may be something very small: a tasty salad, an attractive hairdo, a successful home-repair job or a child remembering to hang up his coat. The moment’s happiness that is given by a compliment is not to be measured by the smallness of the point that is praised.
‘ROOM FOR PRAISE’
We never need fear that the recipient of our praise will become conceited or that our praise will spoil a child. There is hardly a one of us who does not suffer from some degree of inner insecurity and self-doubt. Without any danger of becoming conceited or spoiled, we can absorb far more praise than most of us ever will get.
The majority of people carry a daily load of care and anxiety. When we reflect how much support and encouragement can be imparted by a bit of recognition or approval, it seems a shame that we are not more liberal with our approbation. It is especially lamentable since, by our silence, we rob ourselves of the pleasure that comes from giving pleasure.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966