Praise and Affirmation Sustain Us

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24

On the night of my son’s high school graduation (years ago) the family celebrated and offered the usual congrats to the man of the hour. I was the cliché proud mama, grinning wildly and shedding a couple of tears when they called his name and handed him that sacred piece of paper.

But what really impacted me, and stayed in my heart long after the party was over were the words my mother-in-law whispered to me.

“This is happening because of you,” she said, holding my shoulders. “You stood by him, fought for him and made sure he made it.”

You see, my boy had some struggles for part of high school. He battled clinical depression and it nearly killed me. Seeing your kid suffer when there’s nothing you can do is the absolute worst! I did what any mother would do…I looked for answers and help under every rock. God is good. He overcame, graduated from high school and transitioned into a healthy, happy, brilliant adult.

Moving back to my point, the unqualified compliment my MIL gave me that night enhanced the victory. I hadn’t been thinking at all about my role in any of it, but it felt so sweet to know someone else did.

When I start to doubt my value as a writer or speaker, the Lord always sends someone with just the right words. Some variation of you made a huge difference in my life keep me slogging through.

I think I learned it from my mom, but as far back as I can remember I’ve looked for authentic reasons to praise and compliment people. It has to be for real or it doesn’t count and it doesn’t land. Just watch the girl at the fast food counter when you tell her how pretty her eyes are…the kid bagging your groceries when you comment on what a good job he’s doing…the man at the hardware store when you notice how helpful and knowledgeable he is.

We get rushed and hyper-focused on what we’re trying to get done, which blinds us to the people around us…often those serving us. I was at the hardware store yesterday and as I was leaving a guy charged in snapping at the cashier, “where is the lawn equipment?”- never even pausing for an answer. The kid yelled out the location, but under his breath I heard him say, “I’m fine, thanks for asking.” (I love a little snarkiness when it’s earned.)

As you go through your uber-busy day, try to slow down a tenth of a second and pay attention to the humans in your midst. Offer a word of gratitude or admiration. You can do this without interfering with your intended objective. People wear their driven lives like a badge of accomplishment but the shine has worn off. No one’s impressed because we’re all equally stressed.

What does impact people, and delights God, is when we take that extra moment to notice the effort someone else is making, or even recognition of something positive about their appearance. It matters. During a particularly gnarly day, when someone tells me I look pretty, it lightens me up just a bit. That may sound dumb, but it’s honest. (I may be a lousy wife today and spent way too much on groceries, but she likes my hair. How nice.)

Chances are, you carry a heavy load each day. Remember that praise and affirmation sustain us all. Soak it in when it comes your way and make it a part of your life-style plan to freely give it to others. By the way, you’re doing great!

What’s the nicest thing someone said to you this week? What’s the best compliment you gave someone else?