Don't Let Praise for Others Pass By!

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Don't Let Praise for Others Pass By!

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A year ago I worked with a dozen other ladies in a busy office. Looking back over the course of that year at work I know I cheated some of my fellow workers. I'm sure if you were to personally ask them about it, they wouldn't agree. But in my heart I know I did. Noted American poet of the early 1900s, Edgar Guest, penned it well in his poem The Cheat. He wrote this about what is on my mind.

    I cheated a good friend yesterday,
    Kept what was his and went on my way
    WRONGED him by my SILENCE--for in haste
    I let a glad thought go to waste.

    The praise was his by right to hear
    To him belonged my word of cheer
    In silence, though, from him I turned
    And cheated him of what he'd EARNED.

More familiar to us perhaps is King Solomon, who wrote similarly: "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is within your power to act" (Proverbs 3:27).

So I ask occasionally, why do we withhold encouragement when we know it puts strength into others? I know for me that I often think of doing it, but, as the poem says, "in haste" find I've moved onto something else. Other times it may be not being sure whether our words will be appreciated.

Such was brought home to me some 12 years ago while organizing a three-day equestrian coaches exam. There was one lady who was an excellent rider, in fact she was already a coach and had even been a reserve for the Olympic team. But there are many aspects to these coach exams and, though she was a superb rider, she failed.

She was bitterly disappointed and somewhat angry with the coaching system. I knew where her trouble lay and how she could easily pass if she tried again. So I bought her the most beautiful card I could find, but hesitated to send it as I knew she was angry and upset with everyone who was part of her exam, which included me at the time. I did, however, send the card, but was certain it would not be well received. I said something like, "Don't give up now, we'll help you, I know you can do it."

As the weeks went by with no reply, I was now certain it hadn't been well received. I imagined her tearing it up into little pieces and stomping on them in her long black riding boots.

About two months later a complete stranger came up to me at a horse show and asked if she could buy me a coffee. Over a cup this person explained how she knew I had sent a card to her best friend. She wanted to tell me how much it had helped her. She explained that though her friend was not at all a sentimental type, she had in fact carried that card around with her for weeks. She did later come back into the coaching system, took the exam the following year and passed. In some small way I had contributed to her success, yet at the time almost never sent the card at all.

One of my favorite scriptures from Hebrews fits into all this too. It says we should be "encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25, NRSV).

So I try harder these days to not let a good thought of praise for someone pass me by. I've found when in doubt whether someone needs it, take the action the Nike motto suggests: "just do it." You won't regret it. And the other person may be greatly encouraged by your words.