Jesus praises people for their good qualities and gives them credit when they do well. In the parables He told, He commended the servants who had invested their master’s money well,1 and He even commended the unscrupulous servant for dealing shrewdly.2 He said of Nathanael that there was no deceit to be found in him.3 God commends lots of people throughout the Bible. He said of Job, “There is none like him on the Earth,”4 and He apparently told the prophet Samuel that young David was a man after God’s own heart, because Samuel said as much when he singled out David to be the next king of Israel.5
All the way through the Bible God commended people for their good works, and He promises to reward us for our good work. It has nothing to do with our salvation. We get salvation as a gift of His love and mercy and grace, but He still commends and rewards us when we do the right things with the right motivation.
When we look to Jesus in prayer and ask Him to help us, He does. He helps us do things we couldn’t do on our own, but even then we nearly always need to do something—our part—to bring about the desired result. When we do, Jesus gives us credit. That’s apparent when you consider all the scriptures about rewards and crowns in Heaven and so forth.6
He gives us credit when we do the best we can with what He’s given us. It’s like the story of the farmer who gave a visitor a tour of his farm, and the visitor said, “What a lovely farm God has given you!” “Yes,” the farmer replied, “but you should have seen it when God had it!” In other words, before the farmer had done all the hard work of clearing the land, plowing the fields, and caring for the crops. Even the Garden of Eden had to have somebody to take care of it, and God gave Adam that job when He put him there.7
That principle applies to our natural abilities and talents, our bodies and looks, and all the rest. God gives us the basics to begin with, and He wants to see what we’re going to do with them. To be all we can be, we’ve got to work with what He’s given us, and when we do, He commends us.
And that’s the way God wants us to be with others. People ought to be commended, and it needs to be genuine. There’s a difference between genuine praise and flattery. Almost everybody needs encouragement. Most people are not conceited or stuck on themselves. In fact, I think most people feel insecure or inferior in one or more areas, and they tend to get discouraged with themselves. That’s why encouragement is so important.
People thrive on praise. Any wise parent or boss will tell you that. It’s more important to praise a child for good work and good behavior than it is to scold for bad behavior, and the same holds true for grownups. If you want to bring out the best in people and succeed in your relationships with them, always accentuate the positive.
One of the worst things you can do is to dwell on people’s shortcomings, belittling, nagging, and finding fault. That sort of thing will sabotage relationships faster than almost anything, and it’s been responsible for many failed marriages. It reminds me of the story of a woman and a divorce court judge. She simply couldn’t live with “that man” one day more, the woman told the judge, and she enumerated her husband’s faults. On and on she went.
Finally she paused to catch her breath, and the judge asked, “Well, why did you marry him in the first place? You must have liked something about him then. What was it?”
“Well,” the wife said, “he was a good man, a hard worker, and a faithful provider. He was also kind to children, and he was loyal.”
“Isn’t he still all those things?” asked the judge.
“Well, yes,” the wife replied in a huff, “but...” And she started to repeat her grievances. “He’s terrible! He throws his clothes on the floor. He never puts anything away. He’s always late for dinner. He’s hard to get up in the morning. He picks his nose in public. He fusses if I burn the toast. …” All were relatively insignificant offenses.
“Very well then,” said the judge, “here’s my preliminary ruling: Go home and think about those good qualities for which you first loved him, and try not to think about the things he does that peeve you. If after 30 days you still want the divorce, come back.”
The judge never saw the woman again.
We create a problem when we dwell on people’s weaknesses and bad traits. “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”8 Try that the next time you get frustrated or impatient or upset with someone. Remind yourself of his or her good qualities, and try not to think about the bad things.
Don’t you appreciate it when people show you that kind of consideration? And doesn’t it spur you on to give your best when someone shows you appreciation for a job well done? It’s part of living the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.9
The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.