In praise of praise
A Christian Science perspective.
Have you been praised or been given some positive feedback recently? Not long ago I watched a public television (NHK) program in which many pedestrians in Tokyo were asked that question. The majority of them answered no.
The program reported on how positive feedback was essential not only in reducing stress and sick leave in the workplace but also in increasing productivity and health. It featured a man who’d started a company that educates people about promoting and using praise among employees. One of his best friends had committed suicide as a result of depression triggered at work, and he was determined to make a difference.
At one point, posing as a customer, the man observed the workplace, and later shared what he’d observed during his visit. Then he discussed with the supervisors and workers what he considered to be praiseworthy incidents, conversations, and behaviors, and the importance of bringing joy and satisfaction to the workplace. As a result, turnover was reduced and productivity increased.
To me, truly effective praise isn’t just something we offer a person because we feel an obligation. It’s recognizing the individual’s spiritual nature and the qualities he or she has from God. A few are strength, creativity, peace, perseverance, gentleness, honesty.
So in order to give praise, we have to pay attention to people and find this evidence of good in them. Even if the good we find seems very small, our appreciation of it will encourage the individual and help magnify that good. We may also find more good qualities as we keep looking. One psalm refers to God as having made man “a little lower than the angels” and having “crowned him with glory and honour” (8:4, 5).
The good we observe in ourselves or in others isn’t our personal, private goodness. That would put goodness on a strictly material basis. Rather, our goodness is spiritual and comes from God, the infinite source of all good. As we recognize this spiritual nature of good, our vision expands and we see ourselves and others as always able to express love to others. When it comes to running a business or maintaining harmony and joy at home, we can carry forward this idea and legitimately praise our fellow workers or employees, even if it isn’t always easy to find a reason for doing so.
In Japan, as in many places around the world, children are most often judged by test scores, and adults by job performance. Instead of evaluating others for the good they already have as God’s children – for who they are at that very moment – it is customary for people to identify them with what they materially produce or achieve.
A mother who was interviewed on that television program said that what saved her from almost falling into depression and a feeling of helplessness was her daughter’s words, “Mom, you are so good to me, kind and sweet to me.” In her innocent way, this child was seeing her mother’s love and goodness, and this in turn comforted her mother and lifted her heart.
As the children of God, we are all able to find or give gratitude, as an innate expression of ourselves. One of the steadfast followers of Christ Jesus, the Apostle Paul, said in his letter to the Philippians, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (4:8).
Giving genuine praise is a form of grace, an expression of love. To the line from the Lord’s Prayer “Give us this day our daily bread;” Mary Baker Eddy added a spiritual interpretation: “Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 17).
Our workplace, home, or campus can benefit from giving and receiving more grace and love through our praise of others as spiritual, as God’s children. Today, we can start a new job: Find some evidence of good in each person we encounter, and then magnify it with praise. In return we’ll receive “our daily bread” – productivity, health, new ideas, and well-being.
For a Japanese translation of this article, see The Herald of Christian Science.