Have you ever been around an infant learning how to walk? It's a unique experience. You would think my parents actually developed the concept of The Truman Show... with a few exceptions. First of all, I was completely aware of the fact I had a video camera in my face 24/7. They were also kind enough not to actually go live.
Nevertheless, my entire childhood is archived in a now-burned-to-DVD library. As my dad turned the VHS tapes to DVD to ensure their preservation, I would often hear sounds of my childhood coming from his office. One day, I was in another room watching TV when I was interrupted by deafening cheers coming from my dad's TV.
I paused for a minute and pictured what could be happening. As my dad cheered, "Come on, Chelle, get up. You can do it," I pictured myself mounting the balance beam. Manouvering graciously on the two-inch wide beam, the crowd "oohs" and "aahs" at my high level of technical difficulty expressed with grace and ease. The moment comes....the suspense is building...the intensity can only mean one thing...a deep breath in preparation for my double pike dismount off the beam...PERFECT LANDING! AND THE CROWD IS GOING WILD!
Shaking my head back to reality, I remember that I am not, nor was I ever, a world-renowned gymnast (or anything close, for that matter.) Curiosity gets the best of me, and I peak my head in my dad's office to the screen. The look on my dad's face looks almost identical to his face on the screen as he watches with excitement that can only be explained by love for his little girl.
The scene is repetitive: It consists of me crawling, finding something stable, like the leg of a chair, to grip too, as I slowly stumble on wobbly legs to a standing position. Bravely, I let go of the trusty chair leg....take half a step...and plop down on my diaper. Not exactly the double pike dismount I pictured.
But imagine what would have happened if after I took two steps, my mom had screamed, "What's wrong with you, kid?! Why can't you take more than three steps without falling down? Come on, now...WALK!" I'm not sure I would have gotten back up again. But each time I fell down, her eyes beamed with pride, she clapped her hands, and cheered, "Yay!!!"
When does that acceptance and praise end? Why do we treat others differently as we age? Do we learn to be perfect with age? Absolutely not. No matter how old we are, we always respond better to praise than we respond to criticism.
Proverbs 18:20-21 says, "With the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach will be satisfied;
He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit." (NASB)
With praise, we can inspire life - motivation, energy, the desire to be better. With criticism, we inflect death - discouragement, discontent, and lowered confidence that we can ever do anything right.
Narrow this idea down to one relationship - perhaps your marriage. Does your husband get more affirmation at home than he gets anywhere else? Does he rush home from work for encouragement from you, or does he linger at the office because it's the only place he feels he's successful?
Test the power of the tongue. Praise your husband when you're alone, in front of your children, in front of his parents and your parents, in front of his peers, in front of his friends...
And remember...half a step...PLOP! These don't have to be major accomplishments, like a promotion at work or winning the men's ministry golf tournament at church. Praise him for the little things, and you will be amazed at the renewed life in your home.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
"I really appreciate you vacuuming the house while I was out of town. It's so nice to come home to a clean house."
"That was really great of you to go vist her in the hospital. I know how busy we are, but I know it meant the world to her family."
"I can tell the hard work you put into that message. We're so blessed when you study His Word that intently."