Monday, September 7, 2015

Live with Gratitude: Both Giving and Taking

Live with Gratitude: Both Giving and Taking

Sometimes you can dish it out, but you just can't take it.

How are you at receiving compliments, at accepting praise? Does it cause you undo discomfort when the spotlight is turned to you? Do you soak it in with gratitude? Do you absorb it with pride? Or do you dismiss it in dismay?

Since I am one that is easily overwhelmed, positive attention is sometimes unwelcome, even though it might be very needed. I think that is true for many of us. We want recognition; but, at the same time, we don't want a fuss, nor do we want to feel overwhelmed by compliments that we feel we do not deserve.

Then there is the question of pride in the face of our religious beliefs or core values. If we accept praise, do we equate that with ownership for the good that we have done or the good that unfolds as a result of our actions? Do we question the motives behind the compliment, judging that the giver is insincere or looking for something in return? Do we acknowledge a compliment, understanding that we have been placed in a position to do something good, knowing that we are a small vehicle within a much greater movement of good?

I think that we need to understand that both giving praise and accepting praise are healthy actions and attitudes. Offering praise helps us develop hearts of gratitude, and that's always important. The first part of offering praise, for me, is acknowledging God's hand in all things. All our blessings, relationships, talents, and goodness spring from our Father who gave us life.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav'nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Word: Thomas Ken; Music: Louis

Here is a scripture that came to mind in relationship to giving, which certainly can be applied to giving compliments and praise:

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of neccesity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

I believe that we are encouraged to offer sincere praise, both to God and to our fellowmen. If God loves a cheerful giver, certainly He also loves a cheerful receiver.

Sometimes great people doing great things do not want recognition. But at some point, maybe even their humility might appear to be prideful. We are not all capable of doing the same things. The Lord gives us talents severally according to his will (See Gifts of the Spirit). Gifts are given at His discretion for the benefit of the Giver and the recipient. The recipient of God's gifts can then become a giver himself; in turn, the good that we do becomes a blessing to ourselves and to others. In our humility, we might not think that we are anything great or that the things that we do are noteworthy. Be we, as messengers of God, are involved in His goodness; and, when others are witnesses, it may be careless for us to consider their praise as folly and deny the greatness of the actions performed.

Selfless service, in today's world, is out of the norm. But for those who truly love God and neighbor, it is the ideal that we both seek and cherish. While I can understand someone being tired of receiving attention for the good that he does, we all must realize how wonderful it is to be a witness of selfless service. Since we have all been given different blessing and different capacities, the Spirit can guide us all in how we can serve and what our current missions are, if we are willing to ask our Father and listen for His voice.

There are so many opportunities for all of us to be Christ-like. When someone admires our Christ-like actions, maybe we need to step back and look at our own situation through an outsider's eyes. We might also be in awe; not of ourselves, but of what has been accomplished through the grace of God and the gifts He has given us. When we do so, we will be able to accept sincere compliments without arrogance, but joyfully. We will know that the glory goes to God who has given us the will and the moment-by-moment strength to keep going, even when we feel exhausted and inadequate.

When we can both separate ourselves from the glory and involve ourselves in the gratitude, we are in a good position to be a cheerful receiver. Sometimes this might be hard to do, because we are receiving praise when we are intimately aware of our own inadequacies and failures. Maybe we need more support from friends and family to help ease our burdens, and so the compliments we receive just come across as trite phrases. Maybe we resent the compliment because we desire the gift of time and service to help buoy us up in a current challenge. Maybe we even feel that we are a victim, doing much work that we believe others should also be doing. Sometimes, when we do not see our own growth and goodness, we find it difficult to accept what someone else is telling us, because we currently cannot see it. Then we need to develop some trust in the person who is offering praise, trust to accept the compliments with gratitude and trust to ask for help we may need. We really might not want praise because facing our own fears and inadequacies leaves us feeling exposed.

I am certainly glad that praise is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that even Jesus asked, "Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God" (Luke 18:19).

Not only was Jesus announcing His Messiahship, saying that since He is good, He is the Son of God; in this instance, as always, Jesus, as the King of Creation, deferred the glory to His Father. And yet, can you imagine how crumpled we would be if we didn't feel to praise Him and to offer Him our undying gratitude daily, minute-by-minute for His everlasting sacrifice for us?

I think we can all comprehend the importance of being amazed with God and His Son and in offering praise to Them. I think that we all can understand the importance of expressing gratitude to others, and we can acknowledge that there are times that we are in awe of the work that is being done. But can we understand and accept that it is also not just okay but appropriate to accept the praise of others? Instead of being less amazed, I think we should all be more amazed, not only with God, but with what we can and do accomplish as His children. 

With open eyes and hearts, it would be wonderful if we could all give and accept positive words of encouragement and praise. We should really all be more amazed with each other, all the time. We all have tasks that are not easy and challenges that are invisible to others. So it becomes us to accept words of encouragement and praise more graciously, letting those words boost us in the seemingly endless, thankless tasks that we all must perform on a daily basis. We need to become more like little children, who are humble and sincere. In them we witness perfect praise (See Matthew 21:16).

Let us all practice both giving and receiving praise sincerely and graciously. We can learn to accept words of encouragement for what they are, returning the glory to God, and helping others learn to do the same. He has called us to perform special missions. And He is amazing. The work which we do in His name and through His love is also amazing. His grace and His glory and His goodness endures forever! Even when we might feel weary of compliments, I believe that sincere praise from others is only a mere reflection of the love and gratitude they feel for the goodness and glory of God, in which they cannot yet recognize or find full expression. So we can feel gratitude for the goodness that others see in us, and in that goodness, find hope that we are helping others to see God's grace and seek His face.

Life is a wonderful blessing. Praise is a wonderful gift. We are involved in a marvelous work and a wonder! Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

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