Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In criticism of praise

It's nice to be praised, isn't it? It means that what we have done had been held in high regard by someone. If it's someone important, then that gives us an affirmation of what we do. Praise demonstrates appreciation of our efforts and hard work. And that is what praise should be for. It is an appreciation of what we do.

This is how human beings can legitimately praise God. We single out the things He has done, and we demonstrate to Him that we appreciate it. A prayer of praise is always relevant, and we should learn to exercise praise well. This should put a lot of pressure on Choirs and "Worship Groups" as this praise should be nothing to do with how the music affects us, but rather that we have taken the time and discipline to get it right for the greater glory of God.

Praise is only really proper to God for He and He alone is responsible for all good things. Human beings are only ever going to be unprofitable servants, not out of some false modesty or self deprecation, but rather out of a point of fact. Everything we do is God's and so there is no profit in what we do. There is only His grace; we have to cooperate with it if we stand any chance of being with God.

Unlike God, we are easily swayed by praise, and it is a good trick for people in power to use it to get our goodwill. It has a habit of rendering our critical faculties compromised if we are not careful and can blind us to the facts and ulterior motives of the unscrupulous.

Further, one can get addicted to the warm feelings that come from praise. Most praise is genuinely meant, an honest appreciation of one's work; the giver of praise is desiring to express that appreciation and nothing more. The trouble is that we can then make Praise the end of all our endeavours, resulting in showing off or neuroticism about the worth of our every action. The need for praise causes us to fear failure and shun rejection.

Our Lord has a habit of not explaining His parables fully. He speaks so that "hearing they may not hear" and this is very deliberate on His part. He wants people to seek Him actively and in humility. He does not want the education that He is providing to be a point-scoring exercise. Listening to Our Lord gives us not a knowledge to pass an exam, but rather a thirst to seek Him deeper. It is the Truth for its own sake that is important, not its utility in a rapidly materialistic age. The teacher teaches knowledge for its own worth, not so that students get a big tick in their homework.

Praise, then, while lovely when genuine, should never be an end. It should never be why we do things, but rather to participate in our Society for the love of God and of each human being. The great ascetic saints would bid us flee from praise, and to shun all honour, but rather to take our pleasure in God and the good things He gives us.

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