The Relative Value of Praise and Criticism

8 05 2012

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

One receives inspirations at the oddest times.  This afternoon, while listening to the fine soundtrack to the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (Stephen Warbeck), I had a moment of understanding.  It has to do with desire for praise and fear of disapproval.

We tend to desire the approval of people we look up to and to fear the disapproval of the same.  Some of this is normal and healthy, a matter of common sense.  Most every child desires to please his parents.  Spouses yearn for the approbation of their spouses.  Employees want their bosses to be pleased with them and fear arousing their ire due to poor performance.

All well and good.

There are many of us, however, who have an inordinate and unhealthy desire to please everybody.  We fear being “on the outs” with people–the more significant, the deeper the fear.  Corollary, we yield to the corresponding urge to bend over backwards to please.

We do this because of the valuation we’ve given to human applause or criticism.  And it trips us up.  As the Proverb says, it brings a snare.

If I had Confederate currency lying around or piles of Monopoly money in my home, I would not be too upset if someone took it.  Why?  Because these things have little or no value.  Their gain or loss is of little moment.  It’s a different story when someone picks my pocket.  You get the idea.

John Bevere once wrote, “If you desire the praise of man, you will fear man.  If you fear man, you will serve him–for you will serve what you fear.”

One day we will all be called upon to account for our lives to God, our Creator.  At that sublime and terrifying moment, only one thing will matter:  Did I please Him and have His approval?

In Isaiah 8:13, we are told to let God—not man—be our fear and our dread.  That is sound medicine.  Human beings are weak and fragile.  That is our lot as a result of 1) being created beings and 2) the fall of man in the Garden.   It is because of this precarious state of things that we destroy ourselves trying to make everybody like us.

What to do?

Remember, if you don’t get in the habit of drinking the Kool-Aid of praise and applause, you’re less likely to dread their loss.  You will ultimately answer to One, not seven billion.

It’s the sense of perspective that makes all the difference in the world.  Go and do the right thing and don’t fear man.  As my wife reminds me over and over again:

“We’re just people.  We poop.  We pee.  We die.”

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