“Hey Dad,” I cradled the phone between my shoulder and ear. “What’s goin’ on?”
An amused sigh, “I do have a job you know. You can’t just call me in the middle of the day.”
I’d been calling him in the afternoons lately. Pretty much while he was working. Pretty much on purpose. “Well you answered,” I joked back. “So apparently I can.”
He laughed. “What’s up?”
“I just wanted to tell you about something that happened at work.” For the next few minutes I explained about an event at work in which I was recognized for doing a good job. I was excited about my achievement and my dad obliged in giving me the expected response from a sincerely proud and loving parent. That’s awesome and good job and way to go sport. Alright, not so much that last one. I mean, he’s not this guy.
But he followed his praise with a question. “Now tell me what it means.”
I scrunched my forehead. “Huh?”
“Tell me what that great accomplishment says about who you are.”
I paced the room as previous conversations poured into my brain like floodwater. Who am I? What do achievements say about me? What do I do with the praise of man?
As much as my dads question surprised me in that particular moment it didn’t really come out of left field. We’d been talking about the words of man (people) and what affect they should or shouldn’t have on us.
What The Praise of Man Is
It’s a good thing. Seriously. The praise of man doesn’t have to be awkward for us Christians conflicted by the unending tension of how do we shift the focus from us to God? It’s often a panicked, sweat-streaked flurry of words and motions to deflect praise into the air above us. What follows can be a little awkward.
But like I said, it doesn’t have to be this way. The praise of man can just be received.
Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing. –1 Thessalonians 1:11
But instead warn (admonish, urge, and encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called Today, that none of you may be hardened [into settled rebellion] by the deceitfulness of sin [by the fraudulence, the stratagem, the trickery which the delusive glamor of his sin may play on him]. –Hebrews 3:13
But [on the other hand], the one who prophesies [who [b]interprets the divine will and purpose in inspired preaching and teaching] speaks to men for their upbuilding and constructive spiritual progress and encouragement and consolation. -1 Corinthians 14:3
It is a good and godly thing for us to encourage and build each other up. It’s also reasonable to say it’s godly for us to receive what is said. Encouragement is worthless if it’s not received and often we sacrifice the reception in favor of deflection.
The reasons we deflect can vary. Maybe it’s because we don’t think we’re good enough or worthy of the praise. We don’t see ourselves the way the person blessing us does so we become very uncomfortable and look for a way out.
Maybe we deflect because we don’t want to risk pride. Trust me, we don’t protect ourselves from pride by saying, “Oh nonono,” toothy grin and points up, “It’s God.” If we have a problem with pride, praise is going to feed it regardless. And I don’t think many of us really buy the humble to God be the praise act. We can pretty much tell who is full of pride and who isn’t, despite what is said. In fact, we take pride in knowing who’s full of pride right? Right…?
Or maybe we just think God will be mad for taking the glory that belongs to him. That can cause it’s own kind of panic.
I’ve learned to say two words that dispel awkwardness and at the same time lift my heart. They are, “Thank you.”
The most powerful and impacting words of love and affection come from God. And he loves to pour those words over us. But that doesn’t mean the encouragement we give each other is insignificant or meaningless. In fact, when we encourage and lift each other up we are actually speaking from his heart. Even unbelievers do this at times.
Jesus didn’t seek the praise and honor of man but that doesn’t mean he didn’t (or doesn’t) cherish the encouragement and affirmation from those around him—those who he loves and those who love him.
What Praise of Man Isn’t
A statement of our identity. I wrote about this in a previous post. The praise of man is not something we should allow to raise our sense of worth and value. On the same note, the criticism of man shouldn’t lower it. I received an award for my performance at work. It means I did a good job. It felt good. It has nothing to do with my identity as God’s beloved child.
“If you live for their acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection.”
If we’re going to allow praise to raise our self worth we must allow criticism to lower it. It’s critical that we get off the roller coaster. That racing mine cart of peaks and valleys.
Emotions do not equal identity. I feel good about myself so I must be good or I feel terrible right now so I must be bad.
What an exhausting and tortured existence. Oh who can save us from this body of death? Praise God! Jesus will! (Rom 7:24-25 my paraphrase)
So my dad and I have a running joke whenever we share an achievement. What does that mean? We laugh and know it means we did a good job and we let it feel good. But we come back to the fact that achievement and subsequent praise doesn’t move our core identity. We are just as loved, just as adored as we were prior to the achievement because we are God’s beloved sons. And so are you.
Jesse and Kara Birkey
Jesse and Kara Birkey are committed lovers of Jesus who seek to show others the extraordinary life of Jesus is available for everyone. They have authored two books, been featured in films and seek to serve the Lord in whatever ways they can. Follow their blog here.
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Life Resurrected, Extraordinary Miracles through Ordinary People has been endorsed by Sid Roth and Mark Virkler and is a collection of inspiring stories making it clear that the extraordinary life of Jesus is available to all who love Him. It’s also the testimony of Jesse’s life, the road he travelled bringing him into the arms of Jesus. Get the paperback here. Get the Kindle Version Here. View the trailer here.
Marriage What’s the Point? One couple finds meaning in a crazy mess is the story of their marriage—The tragedy and the restoration. They bear their hearts in an attempt to get others to bear theirs and finally receive the freedom they’ve longed for. Get the paperback here. Get the Kindle Version Here.