Friday, September 21, 2012

Looking for Praise in All the Wrong Places!

How is it possible for you to believe (or to learn to believe) when you are content to receive praise, honor and glory from one another and yet do not seek the praise, honor and glory that comes from Him who alone is God?
-Jesus (John 5:44)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Nothing can cure you of the desire to receive respect from men, except to give yourself over to the honor that comes from seeking God.  Likewise, continuing to honor the glory that comes from God is the only thing that can cure you from the sensitivity, pain and anger that comes when the respect of men is not given!
-Andrew Murray

Who's praise am I seeking?
Just look at my life.
My significant other's?  My family's?  My supervisor's? God's?
I'll go with God's.  Yeah, his happiness with me matters the most.  I am trying to please him first and foremost.
Yeah right.
If I am honest, I will admit that what I really want to hear is "Great job Hope!" from people at work, people I know, love, like, go to church with, work with and for.  Nothing wrong with receiving praise from these folks, but I have to ask myself, is getting an atta-boy, an approving smile or a pat on the back from one of them the focus of my time, energy and talent?
'Fraid so.
Sorry God, you're praise matters, but your voice is so soft compared to theirs.  Plus, they are right here.  You are....there. And you know, now that I think about it, these people in my life don't praise me as much as they should.  I'm really due for a few more "Way to Go's." Especially since I've worked hard, made a significant contribution, gone above and beyond. When this recognition of my efforts doesn't come, I feel let down.  Unappreciated.  Under valued.  Disappointed and discouraged. 

That's when I know I am looking for praise in all the wrong places.

My Mom is great with praise.  She never misses a chance to tell me she's proud of me.  That feels really nice and well, terrible at the same time.  I have a healthy self-image and am pretty confident overall (probably thanks to all the praise!), but when Mom says "Dad and I are so proud of you!" somehow my brain turns to, "Well if you only knew..."  Knew about what?  What would cause her to retract her praise? I don't have a body buried in the backyard.  (There isn't enough room in my tiny HOA sanctioned yard anyway.  Plus, it violates the CC&Rs.)  I'm not writing this blog from prison.  I pay my taxes.  Vote.  Go to church.  Drive close to the speed limit.  But, still, Mom, if you only knew...if you only knew that I am not all you think I am.  I have made mistakes.  Lots.  Most, actually almost all, you know NOTHING about.  Trust me - be GLAD you know nothing about them.  You might not be quite so proud.  Your praise would probably slip down a notch to "We're sorta proud of you most of the time you slightly above average daughter who we like a whole, whole, lot." 
That's because people's praise, (Yes, even Mom's!) is conditional and inconsistent.
Do this - get my praise.
Do THAT, lose my praise.
Do this - oops, forgot to praise you.  Maybe next time.
It can be quite confusing and exhausting trying to please people.  I find that people's praise is a lot like my Internet connection.  Right when you need it most, nothing.
So, I am trying to recalibrate my praise seeking mechanism.
I want to point it in the direction of God.
I want to please Him.  Seek his praise first and foremost.
I want my thinking to be - If I do this...does it please God?  If yes, DO IT, no matter the cost.  If no, DON'T do it no matter how much praise from people it may bring.
Wow, that sounds so cut and dry.  It would be sooooooooooo much easier if I wasn't HUMAN.  Sure, I know that Christian cliche about having a Jesus shaped hole in my heart that only He can fill - that may be true, but when you can't find Jesus, can't always feel his love or hear his praise, shoving someone or something else in that heart hole feels a whole lot better than just sitting around with a holey heart. So, I am trying to let the people praise feel complimentary, enjoy it, but not revel in it.  I appreciate it, but don't want it to determine how I feel about myself.

Wow, have you seen Hope lately?
Yeah, she's really down in the dumps.
Well, duh -- Look at her PRAISE 'O' METER.
Oh man!  No wonder!  It is barely above "0" -
Quick! Give her some praise!  Clap or something!
Ah, there's that smile we know and love!

I want to get rid of the Praise-O-Meter.  I want to feel worthwhile because I am a child of God not because people like me, or Mom is proud of me.  I want to seek God's praise - make HIM smile by living a life that reflects His Son.  Like the title of Max Lucado's book; I want The Applause of Heaven.  I want to focus my time, talent and energy on living a life worthy of His calling so when I see him someday, he says "Well done, good & faithful servant!" That's all the praise I'll ever need. And until then, when I do get people praise, I want to recognize that any good I do is only through Him so the praise I receive for doing good shouldn't go to my head or fill my heart.  Apart from Him, I can do nothing! (John 15:5)
Except, maybe look for praise in all the wrong places.

Hope A. Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter at HopeNote

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