One of the beautiful things about the rhythms of the school calendar is that the end of the school year always creates opportunities for reflection. If we will take just a moment here and there in the hurley-burley of year’s end, it’s remarkable to see how many blessings God actually brought within the course of one single year. Whether they are in the form of victories to celebrate, or in challenges that provided tremendous growth, God does great things in short periods.
I am blessed that the people of this school love and care for each other. That love is genuine and real, like a family, even when we get on each other’s last nerve. And, part of that love is rooted in generosity. Here, at the end of the year, may I encourage you to be generous in yet one more way– with your praise?
Some of us are so very stellar at this, models of encouragement and praise. For others, like me- what a marvelous opportunity for improvement! Ultimately, our motive to praise isn’t guilt, or because we have to, or even because I’m challenging you. Our motivation as followers of Christ rests in the fact we serve a loving God who has lavishly poured out blessings upon us, beginning with His Son’s life, and proceeding forth with things like our minds, our work ethics, our opportunities, and our families. With all this in mind, our generosity is simply an outpouring of gratitude, a loving response to our God who loves to give to us.
One of the greatest ways we can be generous, especially this time of year, is in praise. People don’t really expect it. After all, we live in the world of the “microcomplaint”, where we always seem to have something to gripe about, like our latte not being hot enough, or not quickly prepared enough, or the foam not being thick enough. To top that off, this time of year, we’re tired of each other, we’re ready for summer, and we’ve nearly reached that last nerve with others, as they have with us. Everyone is expecting complaining, the annual “airing of the grievances,” all the things I should have got off my chest in October, but I’ve been storing up until now. That’s what we all expect. So, when someone says, “Can I talk with you for a minute?” we all respond warily, with an inner sigh, a reluctant, subconscious “uh oh- I’m gonna get it now.”
Which is why when what follows is generous praise, it is so disarmingly, profoundly awesome. It makes someone’s year, speaks words of life and truth into them they may never forget, and which they’ll certainly remember long after you’ve forgotten. Did a teacher share something important with your child this year? Is your kid better at studying, or clearing hurdles, or playing his chord progression, or understanding the heart of God better, or at ANYTHING this year? What a great opportunity to share that, to recognize it, and to thank those teachers. It may not be teachers at all who you can praise- it may be your Bible study leader, or your pastor, or your doctor- or, it may be all of the above.
Yesterday, two precious school families laid out a beautiful lunch spread for our teachers, just a simple praise and thank you for a job well done. This was a tangible way of being generous with praise, felt deeply in the hearts (and stomachs!) of our teachers. These families are consistently generous with praise, and they make the lives of those around them better and brighter, giving testimony to the gospel.
Also yesterday, I had the opportunity to pray over one of my children’s closest friends, thanking God the blessing she had been in my daughter’s life all year. Her mother was standing by as I did so, and I was moved to tears with gratefulness, not only for this sweet kid, but for the opportunity to praise something in her that was truly praiseworthy, with her mom in earshot.
I’m not saying that if you have a concern or grievance against someone you shouldn’t seek reconciliation. By all means, please follow that commandment of the Lord, and be quick about it. That being said, however, how much richer would our lives be if we spent as much time praising what is praiseworthy as we did critiquing, whether or not that critiquing is constructive? Being generous with praise changes our hearts, inclines us toward gratefulness, mirrors the heart of God, and inoculates us against grumbling, aka, the “microcomplaint.” All in all, it’s a great way to end the year. And, we all want to go out on a high note, don’t we?