How to Handle Praise

by Jan Silvious

Praise can bring out both the best and the worst in us. Compliments and encouragement may build self-esteem when given for a job well done. Our kids need to hear praise and so do our mates, our friends, and our colleagues at work. Praise is important. But we need to examine our motives when we're on the receiving end of praise.

I've always been a pushover for a kind word. As a child I occasionally sat with a favorite teacher in church. I was honored to be with her and basked in her praise when she commended me for sitting still during the service. Little did she know that it would have taken an earthquake to make me move after that! Her praise motivated my behavior.

When not taken to an extreme, praise can be a positive influence. But what about the people who become people-pleasers as a result? Jan SilviousPeople-pleasers are those who never want to upset anyone, who will say yes when they really mean no, and who never express themselves freely because they live in constant fear of making someone unhappy. A "yes person" is an easy mark for manipulation.

Proverbs 27:21 says: "The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives" (NIV ).

If you have to have praise in order to function well or if you avoid criticism at all costs, then you may not have high integrity or self-respect. I learned that lesson several months ago when I received a glowing letter from someone who wanted to pray for me. She was quite profuse in her praise, and I was pleased that she wanted to support my ministry through prayer. When her next letter came in answer to a letter of appreciation I had written her, I was stunned by her unexpected criticism of my stationery. She told me, in so many words, that because my name was on the letterhead, I wasn't very spiritual.

Stung by this rebuke, I fretted all the way home from the post office. But by the time I pulled into the driveway, I was reminded by that familiar still, small voice that, if another's opinion could affect my joy so drastically, I was too easily swayed by opinion.

How about you? Can someone's casual criticism or word of appreciation make or break your day? Then determine to work for God's approval only. And if praise does come to you, learn to turn it to Him. "Thank you. The Lord gave me this gift, and I enjoy singing (speaking, writing, etc.) for His glory!"

From The 5-Minute Devotional © Zondervan, 1991