These are serious times. As law enforcement reminds us: we need to be vigilant: see something untoward, say something—immediately! …Without minimizing that security imperative, nevertheless, there is a variation of that imperative that works in the living of our lives of Faith.
See something (good); say something (good); watch what happens!
See something good; say something good. Sounds simple. Sounds like a logical reaction. Yet, it’s one thing to think complimentary thoughts about someone; it’s quite another thing to say something—to verbalize the compliment to that person.
I hadn’t really considered the difficulty inherent in verbalizing compliments—maybe because I didn’t give many?—until I had an unforgettable first meeting with a new supervisor.
The specter of meeting the new supervisor, whom I will call “Mrs. Tough,” made me feel very nervous, based on the raised eyebrows and sympathetic glances I received from colleagues who previously had reported to her.
“Watch your step. She lives up to her name,” one person warned me. (Her real surname was a synonym of tough.)
After introducing herself and congratulating me on my new position, without hesitation, she said, “I’m dying of spinal cancer. Because I haven’t got long to live, I’m going to tell you something I think it's important for you to know about why you were chosen.”
And then she proceeded to say some very complimentary things, things I hardly heard, fixated as I was on the matter-of-fact announcement she had made concerning her dying. (Not that we’re not all dying. We are. But her death was imminent. Ours? Who knows!)
Sensing—and seeing, I’m sure--my upsetment at her news, she proceeded to tell me that her “dying time” had been a gift that she wanted to share. It had opened her up to being more honest, especially in giving compliments, something she purposely had refrained from doing previously, admitting she had earned the reputation of being tough.
In the short time she had been in my life before she died, her teaching on giving compliments was one I have tried to implement, as well as to pass along to others, so much had her compliments bolstered my confidence at time I really needed my confidence bolstered.
Unfortunately—and understandably so, given the society we live in—compliments given to adults, and particularly to strangers, can be met with strong resistance. False humility, skepticism, suspicion—so many reasons, I suspect, explain why so many folks cannot accept a compliment.
“What do you want from me?” an assistant once sharply demanded in response to a compliment I gave her.
To her, as well as to everyone else who has been reluctant to accept a compliment, I retell the story of my deceased supervisor. I explain the gift she gave me, and tell them that I want to give that same gift to them, too: the strength to accept and to give sincere compliments.
According to William Shakespeare in his play "Julius Caesar": “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”
Every time I offer a compliment with my deceased supervisor in mind, and the recipient is humble and trusting enough to receive it, we contradict the second half of the norm that Shakespeare observed, ensuring, instead, that the good she did to model for me being an encourager was not interred with her bones.
Since my supervisor was not Catholic, or even Christian, what she modeled for me was human goodness, on a social interaction plane. Even still, since every good thing comes from God, my supervisor’s goodness was a reflection of God’s Goodness: “…all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights...” (James 1:17)
During this Jubilee Year and always, as Catholics, as followers of Christ, we have the opportunity to elevate human goodness to the level of a spiritual work of mercy, when we consciously connect our good works with the saving work of Christ.
When we encourage others to do good in His Name, we imitate Him, Who “went about doing good” (Acts 10: 38). When we go about doing good—as in encouraging others to use their gifts and talents to the maximum, by God’s Grace—we can honor the good that He did, that He asked us to do in His Name. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)
From the Old Testament and the New Testament, encouraging others is Scripturally sound:
“Worry weighs down the heart, but a kind word gives it joy.” (Proverbs 12:25)
“…encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thess. 5:11)
And, when we give encouragement, we are blessed, too! For “…whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)
If you have a positive, or even life-changing experience, as the encourager or the one being encouraged, please share your insights with us by using the “Comment” field, or even by writing an article of your own. Either way, you’re performing a spiritual work of mercy in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. You’re encouraging us to generously give and to generously receive encouragement, all in the Holy Name of Jesus.
God bless you! Thank you!