The Gift of Praise
Right after publishing my first novel, a reader told me how much she enjoyed it. Then she went on to point out that there was a spelling mistake on page 143. One spelling mistake in 65,000 words and she felt I needed to know about it. Somehow that one criticism obliterated all the kind words of praise that had preceded it.
One of the characteristics of most writer’s groups that has surprised me is the emphasis on praise. Each time we meet as writers we are encouraged to read something we have written. The process that is followed is that we listen for the strengths and the places of connection we can make with the piece being read. We do not criticize. Occasionally, after listing at least three positives, we can make a suggestion that we think might make a sentence stronger, or complete an idea. But, our total task is to concentrate on seeking out the words, sentences, structure, ideas, emotions that have helped the writing come alive for us.
When I first joined a writer’s group, I wondered how this process would ever help me improve. After all I needed to know what I was doing wrong, didn’t I? Over the years I’ve learned that having my strengths confirmed was always helpful. Confirming others, even more helpful because I learned to incorporate their strengths in my own work. I have grown as a writer through this wonderful process.
This writer’s process applies equally well to our daily life. One poorly worded criticism about something we’ve done, how we look, what we’ve said, can wipe out all the positives we may have heard. It sends us home feeling defeated, wondering if we will ever get it right. Criticism tends to roll over and over in our minds, like a sliver festering under our skin.
Let’s try praise, naming strengths, affirmation with our children, our friends, our spouse. I believe we will be amazed at their growth. I know that our society seems to search long and hard to find the one mistake that our heroes make, our politicians make. Then we blow it up way out of proportion to all the goodness they have done. Somehow this teaches us nothing and for sure it teaches them nothing as well.
St. Paul says, “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4: 8,9)
I have read and recited Paul’s words so many times, I’m hoping they are written on my heart. I suggest you do the same. Whatever it does for others, I guarantee it will bring you growth and God’s peace.