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A good lesson

The purity of silver and gold is tested by putting them in the fire; the purity of human hearts is tested by giving them a little fame. (Proverbs 27:21)

Praise is definitely one of the things which always puts to the test the integrity of a man or woman. Too much and they could get big heads, making it almost impossible to live with them. Too little and they will have issues with their self-esteem, often forming resentment towards those who receive praise instead of them - like bears woken from their slumber, they will lash out. Just enough and the individual seems to flourish. We all need praise - but do we handle it as we should? We all give praise - but is it sincere? Praise can either be an expression of appreciation, approval, or admiration. With praise, we express our respect, and often our gratitude, for others. When we praise God, we are often showing him both respect and an expression of our thankfulness for all he does and has done for us. When we praise someone else, we may simply be showing how much they mean to us and how much their actions have impacted us in a positive manner.

Praise is like a "barometer" of our true character. We are tested by how we respond to praise - what we "do" with it determines how it affects us. When something is tested, there is a process underway to determine the quality or reliability of the object being tested. Praise reveals both the strength and the integrity of an individual. When praise is received, we have many choices in how we will "accept" it. Some of us in this group will receive it whole-heartedly, almost as though we expected it. I doubt the ore in a furnace ever expects the heat, so beware of being too 'expecting' of praise! In fact, the ore in the furnace undoubtedly has no idea what it is being subjected to - all it knows is it is "hot"! The same may be true of us when receiving praise - we don't know how much "heat" it will bring into our lives! Praise turns up the heat, so to speak, testing every fiber of our integrity. If you have ever struggled with a little bit of pride, you know pride is oftentimes fed by the volume of praise received. Just like a fire in a furnace, if praise is given frequently, the "fire" burns hotter! Praise is a testing of a man's ability to maintain proper focus and balance - some do better than others at this point of finding 'balance'.

Consider the cost of a little fame - it seems insignificant at first, but is it really? Fame is what some may call our "public" reputation. We are told to consider how our public reputation is put to the test whenever we receive words of appreciation, approval, or admiration. In fact, we probably should also consider just how much our hearts are affected by our "giving" of praise! When we are giving praise in the right manner, and with the right motive, we might just find our hearts are built up. When we give praise to manipulate another, or just to share kind words without any really heartfelt motivation behind it, we might begin to feel our hearts getting a little harder as we begin to set ourselves us as "superior" to another. Whenever we give insincere praise, we are hurting both the other person and ourselves. The other person needs honest appraisal, not flattery. We need to be honest - flattery is really a form of dishonesty in any relationship. I am not saying we don't ever say a kind word - I believe we can find good in all people (we may just have to look a little deeper in some than others). We must not use our words of praise as a means of manipulating another. We also must not use them to give another a false sense of security.

So, perhaps we need to take our lead from those who learned to praise well. David was a man with a good sense of how to give and receive praise. He knew the first place his praise was directed would always be to God. Just as he learned to exclaim the repute of his God, he learned to proclaim the goodness of those who were faithful, supportive, and consistent in their walk - men and women of integrity that he surrounded himself with. Paul constantly lifted up the churches who followed hard after Christ. He learned to give them words of praise which encouraged them to seek even harder - to draw even nearer to Christ. These examples remind us praise should be sincere and it must be from a heart that is first focused on Christ. So, praise on! Don't stoke the fire with insincerity, but with genuine respect and appreciation of another. When you do, you are learning to build up another in a positive manner. In so doing, you are helping them to learn to find 'balance' in their own lives - it might just test them a little, but out of every test can come a good lesson. Just sayin!

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