‘And God Saw That It Was Good’ – Share the Praise

Faith in God should lead us to have faith in people, for God’s image is in each of us, and we have to learn how to discern it.

Consider the phrase in Genesis 1, “And God saw that it was good,”. The Almighty said this of His created World and also of His creation of mankind.

If we are to embrace being in His image, then surely we too are to see the good in our world, and especially to see the good in others.

praise others

We should seek to praise our family, our friends and our neighbours. We should seek to see the good in them and the good in the events in our lives, that may on the surface seem bad, but in which some good can always be found to focus on and to encourage and strengthen us.

At the heart of praising others, is the 5th Commandment to ‘Honour and respect our parents’.

This instruction and moral code also cuts both ways. The child who shows no respect for his or her parents will in turn know disrespect from his or her own children.

Honoring one’s parents is the most basic and logical of inter-personal laws, and its effects are far-reaching: The son or daughter who respects his or her parents will, by extension, be kind to his siblings and their children as well.

Whenever we find time to pause and reflect, and hopefully to bring praise to our Father in Heaven, let us all also seek, with eyes wide open, to find time and opportunity to praise our family, our friends and all those who enter our circle of life.

In an earlier blog post I spoke about the importance of praising others. Here’s a repost to support the comments above:

We don’t praise the good efforts of others enough.

We lift them, and in turn, ourselves when we praise something that someone else has done.

If we have an appreciative attitude to the blessing of life that we have been given, if we can awake and be thankful that we have awaken, surely we can be more attentive to those around us when they do something that helps us or helps someone and in turn show that we have noticed by praising them.

Obviously, praise needs to be genuine, but often being genuine only requires a change of perspective.

Just consider the last person you spent a few minutes interacting with. Had they done anything today that helped make your life easier or more comfortable or successful, or perhaps had you observed them do this for someone else.

If so, say so!

Praise is a boomerang!

The more we all try to give praise to others the more it will come back on us and in turn lift our spirits and encourage us to try even more to help others.

Appropriate and honest praise is important. So while praising others may bring us happiness, when it comes to praising our children, there are some important points to consider, as  Marnie Winston-Macauley points out:

Five Principles of Healthy Praise

The positive power of praise is well documented. As children grow, they need emotional feedback to mirror who they are. Praise is one way they learn about themselves. When they learn honest, specific positives, they develop confidence and esteem.

But lavishing general, over-reaching praise often has the opposite effect, setting the child up for unrealistic and fraudulent expectations. Telling a child: “You’re a wonderful, son,” “You’re the most honest person I know,” “You’re Mommy’s little angel,” “It’s always such a pleasure to be around you,” “You’re one great artist, writer, [fill in the blanks]. “You’re so smart, there’s nothing you can’t do,” they all sound like confidence boosters, but in fact, they land like “dares.”

These dares set up impossible standards. Parents may hope it’s true but our children know it’s not. After all, who could live up to such overwhelming kudos?

Praise is a lot like medicine. The right amount and type at the right time can restore and contribute to our child’s well-being. But too much of the wrong kind or given at the wrong time and we’ve got one sick puppy for whom the praise:

  1. is inaccurate and won’t jibe with his or her own self-view.
  2. raises anxiety as he feels like not only a fraud, but, like little David, one who may quickly lose his halo if he’s “found out.”
  3. could lead to impossible self-expectations. “I’m perfect or nothing,” then becomes the emotional compass.

So how can we praise without “punishing?”

#1: Praise realistic achievement specifically

“Thanks for helping me clean the basement. It looks like new,” or “You followed the recipe, and we all really enjoyed your cookies,” instead of “What a terrific cleaner or cook you are” telegraphs our children did a fine job, without raising anxiety by expecting them to be Bob Vila or Martha Stewart. Letting children know what they’re actually achieving offers a realistic emotional mirror. The message they hear? “My work really paid off! I did something new, and I can learn, listen, follow directions. It was fun, my family appreciated me. I feel sooo grown up and can’t wait to do more.”

#2: Praise proportionally

Proportion in any excellent recipe is critical. Too much sweet (praise) is as unhealthy as too much salt (criticism). Our child cleans her room well. It’s her job and her challenge. She deserves the simple, honest, recognition, not a marching band. We all want our children to own their real accomplishments, and not become “sugar junkies.”

#3: Praise in the here and now without prophesizing or readying your mantel for a Nobel Prize

In the Siddur we say each morning, “A person must always acknowledge the truth and speak truth in his heart.” Over-praising is a fundamental “untruth” and, despite well-intentioned praise, our children know they’re not deserving of all that glory. Not only do they feel the stress, they start to doubt themselves, and us. 

Ironically, hyper-praise can cause our children to either shut down, or become competitive at all costs. On the other hand, specific, proportional praise encourages children to believe in the value of a job well done.

#4: Helpful praise allows the child to infer the truth about himself and his character

Saying, “I really appreciate you telling me I gave you a five dollar bill instead of a one,” beats, “You’re always so honest!” by letting children get the idea – for themselves – that honesty is a positive quality, one they can and should continue as an ethical standard that is important, noted, and respected.

#5: Praise a good attempt, as well as accomplishment.

“Wow! An 85 in math. That was a tough test. And I know you were worried about it. This grade shows you really put a lot into it and it paid off!” tells the child effort and perseverance are more important than instant success.

Useful praise supports positive reality, acts as an accurate emotional mirror, and lets the child develop self-knowledge and ethics. With these character traits, children can then grow and mature with true confidence – confidence they’ve earned, and confidence they can trust.  – see http://www.aish.com/f/p/How_to_Praise_Your_Children.html

I would argue that Marnie’s wisdom here can also be applied to our interactions with other adults.

We need to find the opportunities to give praise, but it must be honest, specific, proportional and an invitation to critical self-reflection, rather than a conclusion and end in itself.


Mt Sinai & the Messiah: Miracles precede Revelation

This weeks Torah Portion is about the 10 Words. At Mt Sinai “God’s self-disclosure was not to an individual (a prophet) or a group (the elders) but to an entire nation, young and old, men, women and children, the righteous and not yet righteous alike.” (quoting Sacks – see below)

This revelation is unique in the history of man. It was preceded by some of the greatest miracles as well. And yet, the Almighty declares, through Jeremiah, that a greater miracle will occur:

Jeremiah 16:14-15: “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.”

In the last 65 years since 1948 we had been most privileged to witness this greater miracle. Could this greater miracle be the fore-runner to a greater revelation!?

Scholars estimate that some 2 million witnessed the revelation at Mt Sinai – how many more will witness the coming revelation of the Messiah?

One strange aspect of this miracle(s) though is that the world at large has not recognized it. With the miracles of the Exodus, while many Egyptians may initially have denied that the Creator of the Universe, the mighty YHVH was behind the plagues, surely no-one who witnessed the parting of the Red Sea, whether Israelite of Egyptian soldier, could have denied the miracle before them.

In comparison, many through a lack of knowledge and the deliberate deluding influence of today’s mainstream media, can not see the awesome miraculous nature of the creation of the State of Israel in one day. Israel today is a place of daily miracles. Perhaps these miracles will soon extend throughout the earth and perhaps some event or events may occur which will be as undeniable as the parting of the Red Sea.

Then the world may be a little more ready for the greater revelation. I believe this greater revelation will occur on Yom Teruah – may this year’s Yom Teruah (Day of Shouting)  be THE day when the shouting will overwhelm everything else; when the glory of YHVH will shine brighter than the – see The Day of Trumpets & the Return of the King  for more on this.

Rabbi Sacks writes a great Torah portion about this revelation – see http://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/188580691.html