Thursday, March 25, 2021

Compliments and Criticism

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." (Proverbs 31:28–29)

Most of us have heard the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This is perhaps one of the most untrue proverbs ever coined by man. If you break a bone, a physician can set it and in a few weeks it will be back to normal. A vicious word, however, can go down deep into your being and may affect your life for years to come. A child who is told that he or she is ugly could carry feelings of inferiority for the rest of his or her life.

Happily, the same thing is true of a well-timed compliment. A child who is praised for doing good work in a particular project may carry that praise with him and grow up to work in that particular area.

We are much more sensitive to criticism than to praise. This is probably because each of us wants to play God, so we react strongly against criticism. At the same time, each of us is inwardly insecure because of our deep-seated moral guilt, and so criticisms are felt more deeply than praise. If ten people compliment us and say “well done,” while one person says “poor job,” we will remember the critical remark and stew over it for days, while completely forgetting the praise.

There is a much better proverb that our parents taught us: “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” This is a wise saying not only because it is kind but also because if we want to get along with people, we’d better learn to choose our words carefully.

Because marriage is intimate, we can have a tendency to let our hair down, so to speak, and talk bluntly with each another. We should, however, be the most careful when we speak to those who are closest to us because our words carry more weight with them. If we get into a pattern of continually criticizing our spouse and other loved ones, we are headed for disaster. God puts words of praise into our mouths for Him, and He is our divine Husband. This should be a pattern for us: As much as possible, we should praise those nearest to us. We should seek for things to praise and be sure to verbalize them.

Do you want to be remembered as one who encouraged people with sincere compliments or as one who deeply hurt others through criticism? Be diligent in encouraging people, and be certain any criticism is designed to help and is bathed in love and concern.