I was flying back from New Orleans, and my Spotify playlist didn’t sync to my phone… I stare at it in complete disdain as I also have no phone games (I’ve got an issue with phone games). I didn’t have a book… Nobody was sitting next to me. Window seat, one hour and ten minutes, and nothing to do. I resort to what anybody in my position would do- reach for Skymall magazine. Unfortunately, I come to find it isn’t there (and later learn I won’t ever be able to read the quality publication again). I’m disappointed to find the airline-sponsored magazine every carrier seems to feel pressured to publish. However, this particular moment was different. The magazine, with its creased edges and dented, glossy front read: “Enough Already! Praise gets heavy, So why can’t we stop?” I knew it was a good hook-line, because, well, I was hooked. Praise? Enough already? I opened up magazine and started reading the article.
My first thought was, “I wonder what other people are saying about praise.” The article by Heidi Stevens unfolds the notion that we’re over-praising our (society’s) children. “What? How can we give too much praise, and why is it a problem?” I thought. I’d just like to mention that this post isn’t a recap of an article on parenting skills. I’m simply giving you the information that I read so that I can share with you my interpretation of praise and how it can help you focus on what success actually is, and how to achieve it. Anyway, Stevens simply mentions that when it comes to praise, we should pay attention to, and praise the process of hard work rather than reward results. I hadn’t really given the idea too much thought, but it made sense to me. Stevens mentions that children are essentially being inadvertently disadvantaged by their parents when they tell them how great they were in their soccer game when truthfully, all they did was pick their nose and twirl about like helicopters on the field. She refers to a study that yielded some incredible results-
Two groups of students were given a test, all whom scored well. One group, upon finishing the test were all told, “you must be very smart at this.” The other group of students were told, “you must have worked very hard at this.” Here’s the kicker- all of the students were then given a choice to take another test. One test promised to be more difficult but comes with the benefit of learning something new OR they could choose the other test, which would be very similar to the first one that they took. From the group of students praised for their effort, 90% opted to take the more difficult test. The group rewarded for their initial results overwhelmingly chose to take a similar test to the first.
Amazing. Would you have thought that? I sure didn’t, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how useful that information is. Here’s what I’ve come up with. We’re all on a journey… some call it our walk of faith, others call it a struggle. All I know is that too often, when we’re on our journey, we can feel like our results are not what we want. We feel encumbered by the lack of natural talent, or “smarts” that it takes to just be good at something. When we accept Jesus into our lives, we’re also fooling ourselves into thinking that our nights won’t be as dark, and our fears will fade…just like that.
What we need to remember is that the process is one of the most most beautiful parts of salvation. It’s similar to the creative process. One dreams, tries, and fails. From failure, you dream again, try again, and fail again. I haven’t always enjoyed being told that I’m “naturally” good at something. Take photography for example… if you have the time, (and patience) to scroll to the bottom of my Instagram feed, you’ll see a totally different photo at the bottom than you do at the top. It took lots of failure. It took lots of time. It took lots of passion. One day, I’ll look at the photo I took today and squirm at the sight of it. The point is, the process needs to be praised.
Take joy in your steps toward Jesus. Be sure that when your encourage others, you tell them that you admire how much they want to be like Christ. Tell them you admire how hard they’ve been trying to walk the straight and narrow. When people become conditioned to find happiness and success in the results, failure inevitably becomes catastrophic. Then they stop walking. People seldom make life shifting changes in one day. Just as massive sea-faring ships take multiple miles and extended periods of time to turn and go the other way, so will it be with someone whose issues and burdens are heavy and hard to hold.
Both for yourself, and others, praise the process. Be careful about rewarding results. It’s a constant fight to keep the evil one away, and we need to be a support system for one another throughout the process. My thoughts and prayers are with those of us that desperately need a voice saying, “good job, I can see how much you’re loving Jesus.”
Check out Heidi Steven’s article here: In Criticism of Praise