Everyone loves to be encouraged and praised and valued. We all know instinctively that “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good work makes him glad.” (Pro. 12:25) Yet many of us struggle to build habits of regularly encouraging others. Perhaps many are worried that too much praise and honor will result in big-headed pride, so the best thing to do might be to keep our compliments to ourselves. Certainly complimenting and praising aren’t the only ways to encourage others (Scripture often shows us how to encourage with good and hopeful theology), but they should be tools we use often for the good of others.
Paul’s example in Romans 16 has always stood out as a great way to show honor and pay compliments in a way that continues to glorify God even while lifting up his servants. Here are just a few observations from the “farewell” chapter in Romans to get us started on showing others how much we value them. (Please add more observations to mine in the comments section!)
First, praise publicly whenever you can. It’s not always possible, or even appropriate, but when someone’s good deeds are publicly known, they should be publicly recognized and valued. A side benefit of showing public honor is how much it encourages everyone listening. Doesn’t it delight and encourage you to hear one person praising another?
Second, praise specifically whenever you can. Paul praises Phoebe, who had been “a patron of many and of myself as well.”
Third, praise effort as well as success. Twice Paul praises someone in the church simply because they “worked hard” (Rom. 12:6, 12). If we wait until a job’s finished to honor someone, we have probably missed a great opportunity to encourage them along the way.
Fourth, praise from the heart. Paul’s public honor of the Christians in Rome wasn’t solely a record of their deeds, but included how much they meant to him. He used words like “my beloved” and “my kinsmen”, showing that these were valued not just for their fruitfulness but for their love.
Finally, honor God above all. Please realize that showing public honor to Jesus’ servants does not rob Him of honor–after all, He’s always the greater example and source of whatever good they’re doing! True servants of God are incredibly encouraged to hear a compliment that goes something like: “I honor God often for how well you are doing what He has called and equipped you to do!”
…and a couple extra thoughts for good measure:
- If you want to do something really scary, ask the honest people in your life how often you compliment or praise them. There are very few of us that do this too much, or even enough.
- Leaders, if you are discouraged because you aren’t shown enough honor, you need to lead! Develop a habit of striving to show honor to others whenever and wherever you can.
- Parents–especially dads–compliment your children! Praise them to their face and especially in front of others. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the type of courage and strength and love this communicates to their hearts.
- Spouses, honor your husband or your wife. Tell other people how great they are (this works a lot better in person than on social media, by the way). Pay your husband or wife genuine and thoughtful compliments whenever you can think of them.