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The Best Encourager in the World

Story of the Day for Saturday February 18, 2012

The Best Encourager in the World

                                                     We never flattered you. 

                                                               1 Thessalonians 2:5

When I browse through a sporting goods store and find a new gizmo that I simply can’t live without, I quickly track down my wife, sweep her in my arms and whisper, “Honey, have I ever told you that your eyes sparkle like shimmering pools of moonlight on a warm summer’s night?”

She sighs, rolls her shimmering pools of moonlight, and asks, “So, what do you want to buy this time?”

My wife, to my great misfortune, can shrewdly distinguish between praise and flattery. Even though both sentiments glow with admiration, she knows that praise and flattery differ greatly in their sincerity.

We flatter when we have an ulterior motive. The goal of flattery is not to give to others but to get something out of the one on whom we lavish insincere praise.

 

When the apostle Paul writes to the newly formed congregation at Thessalonika, he assures them he never seeks to flatter. He had no hidden agenda.

Yet, before disavowing flattery, he has been showering them with praise. He tells them they are a shining model for the other believers in the area. He writes of their joy in the face of severe suffering, their responsiveness in imitating Paul’s example, their faith, their love, their endurance. Paul could hardly be more effusive in his praise.

 

Unlike flattery, praise is sincere. Yet, even though the intention of praise is to encourage others, sometimes praise can inadvertently harm them.

Carol Dweck, a Ph.D from Stanford University, oversaw an experiment with hundreds of fifth graders. A student was given blocks with different colors on each side and asked to form the blocks into the pattern shown on a card.

The first card showed an easy pattern. When a student completed the puzzle, half were told: “Wow, you did really well; you must be really smart.” When the other group finished the easy puzzle they were told: “Wow, you did really well; you must’ve worked really hard.”

Dr. Dweck then had all the students tackle a far more challenging puzzle — one which forced every student to struggle.

When each student finished the two puzzles, they were asked: “Which problems do you want to work on some more: the easier ones or those harder ones?” Those kids who were praised for their intelligence usually wanted to do the easier ones. But the students who were praised for working hard preferred the challenging puzzles.

Dr. Dweck maintains that praising inherent talent motivates kids to not want to grow. New challenges are welcomed by kids praised as hard workers, but are a threat to those who must maintain their reputation for being intelligent.

True praise should always seek to encourage and make others better. And if you learn to praise others wisely, I’m sure you can become the best encourager in the world!

Or is that flattery?

                                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)