Monday, August 5, 2013

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism” ― Norman Vincent Peale

I am one of those who has received standing ovations, for my acting in high school and in college, for my work in civil rights in L.A., and even for sermons--one in a Catholic church in Boston where I was the first protestant who had ever preached there--and a couple in churches where I was the pastor.  They are pleasant to hear but are very fleeting and can lead more to ruin than to improvement.  I never became better because of the praise, but all of my true growth came out of criticism--which I was not happy to hear.  Too many of us want to hear praise for everything that we do--whatever it is, but the truly great things we do seldom bring praise, as least not in this world.  My son, John, raised the almost $3,000 necessary to buy a deep water pump and got it installed about 45 kilometers from here where it is providing water every day to three villages--villages where the villagers used to have to walk 10 kilometers to get water and now have it every day just a few steps from where they live.  My son got no standing ovation from the villagers, or the people who provided the money, or the government, or anyone for that matter save his parents.  He was very proud of what he did but he had forgotten about it just a couple of weeks later as he had moved on to new projects.  He did what was needed without expecting anyone to thank him for it--he just knew it had to be done.  Most of the truly good work that goes on in this world goes on devoid of praise and most of it is improved by criticism.  It is what Christ taught over and over.  You do it because it is what you were called by God to do and for no other reason.  Whenever someone praised a sermon I preached, I always wondered if they really heard it since almost all of my sermons are challenges to live a better life.  We used to call them "pew polishers" for all the squirming the listeners would do while listening.  Praise is always pleasing, but it should be like a sweet that is eaten and forgotten just a few hours later.  God has not called us to do what this world praises but to do what we know is right to do because God has told us so.   Please praise those who should hear it, but remember the best praise is to become better people because of those whose deeds you praise.  

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