Thursday, October 25, 2012

Proverbs 27:14 Excessive praise = excessive expectations

If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning,
    it will be taken as a curse.

I wondered about this verse when I first read it. I wondered how the authors of the commentaries came up with their notes on it. Their "take" on the verse was that it meant someone who blesses and praises their neighbor (or friend, or child) lavishly and excessively. 

Then I recalled the verse in I Chronicles 23 that says, "They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening."
There are many other verses that consider giving praise to God in the morning, as well as noon and in the evening.
So, the implication here is that Solomon is talking about blessing and praising a person with regularity, as you would the Lord. Well, you can see that if you were to do that regularly, routinely, almost ritually, it could become quite annoying . . . it might also cause some problems!

Now, when blessings cross over the line and become flattery, it can tempt someone to begin believing a higher opinion of themselves -- and that can lead to the sin of pride. It can also lead to some mighty large expectations.

Let's consider two examples:

First, there are preachers and pastors that are gifted with talents from God. They are particularly skilled at "saying the right things" to hurting individuals, or at preaching a sermon that meets the needs of many that hear it. It's always good to let them know that you appreciate their study, their delivery, and their bringing God's Word to life for us, but if we ladle on the praise too much, we may begin to expect too much from them. We can be in danger of being disappointed at some point in the future, because they are human, after all. We may even cause them to be too hard on themselves, and think they have let everyone down when they have a bad day or make a mistake.

Secondly, if a child is perceived as gifted, with lots of potential for the future, we may be tempted to push them further and faster than is healthy for them. Our expectations of them will change, for we believe them to have superior intelligence or physical skills. Children are especially vulnerable to this kind of expectation, for they will try super-hard to meet those challenges and keep receiving the love and adulation that comes from the high performances they deliver. They can hit the depths of despair when they are unable to deliver what they feel is expected of them. Whether it is in the sports arena or the academic halls, we need to balance our praise and expectations for them, with our desire for them to be healthy in their outlook on life. Give them every opportunity to shine, but also give them a chance to prove themselves in other areas of their lives, as well.
Whether we are talking about adults, or about children, flattery and excessive praise is not necessarily a positive thing. It can lead to pride, or it can lead to despair, because the individual feels he or she can't measure up.

Now, am I saying that we can't give someone an "Attaboy" or a pat on the back for the job well done?


Let's just be careful not to ladle it on too thickly --- our blessings delivered "loudly, in the morning," may end up being a curse.


Denise :) said...

I've recently found your blog and wanted to share I'm enjoying the daily nuggets from Proverbs! What a great way to start out the day, right? :)

Cathy said...

I must confess that I read the verse for today, and chuckled at it a bit. I am NOT a morning person. I have difficulty getting to sleep, and then staying asleep. So, if one of our neighbours were to try and give me blessings early in the morning, it would not be well received. LOL!
But I agree with what you have said. Too much praise is as bad as none at all. I don't know about your school systems, but here, the kids are not allowed to fail. They are praised for everything they do, whether good or mediocre. It seems to have taken away some of the need to try to excel, and frustrates the ones who have done very well, to not have it acknowledged.