The Power of Praise

By Anthony Gold

Many years ago, a young boy was in a very dark place.  His father was in prison, and his mother had sent the boy away to try and make money for the family.  The only job the boy could find was in a dingy, rat-infested warehouse pasting labels onto bottles of shoe coloring.  The working conditions were terrible and the boy struggled mightily. 

He had dreamed of being a writer, but had so little confidence in his ability to write that he was ashamed to let others know of his ambitions.  When he finally completed his first manuscript, his insecurity was so great that he snuck out in the middle of the night to mail it so that no one would make fun of him.

His manuscript was rejected.  And so were several others.

And just when the young lad was about to give up on his dreams, one editor responded saying the work was good and that he would publish it.  The boy was so ecstatic that he aimlessly roamed the streets for hours with tears streaming down his face.

That praise – that one little recognition (and he wasn’t even paid any money for the manuscript) – changed his entire life.  Had it not been for that one editor that provided the encouragement, the young boy might have spent his entire life in rat-infested warehouses.

That young boy was named Charles Dickens.

And if one of the greatest novelists in English literature questioned his ability to write and was so moved by the slightest form of recognition – how much must we mere mortals crave praise?

Answer: a lot!

Yet we are much more accustomed to inattention or even criticism.  Why?  Because it is so easy to see the faults and shortcomings in another person than their goodness.  As the old saying goes, “Any fool can criticize and complain – and most fools do.”  It’s an obvious attempt to glorify our ego by foolishly believing that by seeing inadequacies in others or perceiving people as insignificant somehow makes us feel better about ourselves.

But consider how much more rewarding it would be to overlook the faults and see the beauty, the wonderment, the gifts, and the spectacular that exists within all of us.  More rewarding for us as the “giver of praise” and equally pleasing to the receiver.

In the immortal words of Philo of Alexandria, “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Is it hard to overlook faults?  The truth is that we will see what we want to see.

What you see reflects your thinking.  And your thinking but reflects your choice of what you want to see.  (W-pI.130.1)

So, if we want to experience joy and at the same time help someone else feel terrific – the recipe is quite simple.  Look at their greatness.  It is right there – in plain view – clear as day.  All we need to do is open our eyes and allow that loving praise to naturally flow right through us.

Choose, then, his body or his holiness as what you want to see, and which you choose is yours to look upon.  (T-24.VI.7)

What do you want to look upon?  Ugliness or beauty?  It is our choice – but in that choosing will all our experiences result.  Let us choose wisely.

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