Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me,
and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.
William Arthur Ward.
The Duke of Wellington, the British military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo,
was not an easy man to serve under. He was brilliant, demanding, and not one to shower his
subordinates with compliments. Yet even Wellington realized that his methods left
something to be desired. In his old age a young lady asked him what, if anything, he would
do differently if he had his life to live over again. Wellington thought for a moment,
then replied. "I'd give more praise," he said.
Bits & Pieces, March
31, 1994, p. 24.
Mercedes Ruehl, one of the few actresses to win a Tony and an Oscar in the same year
(for Lost in Yonkers and The Fisher King), saw her first Broadway show when she was in
grade school. Her family was in New York visiting relatives and driving through Times
Square. On the spur of the moment her parents decided to see if they could get tickets to
The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
"I remember waiting in the car," says Ruehl, "while my mother ran up to
the box office. The only tickets left were for box seats. Box seats! To me there were no
better seats, and I remember my father saying, sure, go for it. One of the best qualities
of my parents was that they liked to have fun.
"As we watched the play, I could not take my eyes off its star, Tammy Grimes. She
must have felt my adoration, because at one point she looked up and held my eyes. It was
probably for no more than one second, but it seemed like ten seconds. I always felt that
was my official invitation to be an actress. With her gaze I was touched like a knight on
both shoulders with a sword."
Madeleine Blais in Reader's Digest.
Forty thousand fans were on hand in the Oakland stadium when Rickey Henderson tied Lou
Brock's career stolen base record. According to USA Today Lou, who had left baseball in
1979, had followed Henderson's career and was excited about his success. Realizing that
Rickey would set a new record, Brock said, "I'll be there. Do you think I'm going to
miss it now? Rickey did in 12 years what took me 19. He's amazing."
The real success stories in life are with people who can rejoice in the successes of
others. What Lou Brock did in cheering on Rickey Henderson should be a way of life in the
family of God. Few circumstances give us a better opportunity to exhibit God's grace than
when someone succeeds and surpasses us in an area of our own strength and reputation.
Daily Bread, June 19, 1994.
One morning I opened the door to get the newspaper and was surprised to see a strange
little dog with our paper in his mouth. Delighted with this unexpected "delivery
service," I fed him some treats. The following morning I was horrified to see the
same dog sitting in front of our door, wagging his tail, surrounded by eight newspapers. I
spent the rest of that morning returning the papers to their owners.
Marion Gilbert in
Reminisce, Reader's Digest, February, 1994, p. 12.
Everyone needs recognition for his accomplishments, but few people make the need known
quite as clearly as the little boy who said to his father: "Let's play darts. I'll
throw and you say 'Wonderful!'"
Bits & Pieces, December 9, 1993, p. 24.
Edward Steichen, who eventually became one of the world's most renowned photographers,
almost gave up on the day he shot his first pictures. At 16, young Steichen bought a
camera and took 50 photos. Only one turned out -- a portrait of his sister at the piano.
Edward's father thought that was a poor showing. But his mother insisted that the
photograph of his sister was so beautiful that it more than compensated for 49 failures.
Her encouragement convinced the youngster to stick with his new hobby. He stayed with it
for the rest of his life, but it had been a close call. What tipped the scales? The vision
to spot excellence in the midst of a lot of failure.
Bits & Pieces, February 4, 1993, pp. 4-5.
During quail season in Georgia, an Atlanta journalist met an old farmer hunting with an
ancient pointer at his side. Twice the dog ran rheumatically ahead and pointed. Twice his
master fired into the open air. When the journalist saw no birds rise, he asked the farmer
for an explanation. "Shucks," grinned the old man, "I knew there weren't no
birds in that grass. Spot's nose ain't what it used to be but him and me have had some
wonderful times together. He's still doing the best he can -- and it'd be mighty mean of
me to call him a liar at this stage of the game!"
Bits & Pieces, August 20, 1992, pp. 15-16.
It wasn't like Scott Kregel to give up. He was a battler, a dedicated athlete who spent
hour after hour perfecting his free throw and jump shot during the hot summer months of
1987. But just before fall practice everything changed. A serious car accident left Scott
in a coma for several days. When he awoke, a long rehabilitation process lay ahead. Like
most patients with closed head injuries, Scott balked at doing the slow, tedious work that
was required to get him back to normal -- things such as stringing beads. What high school
junior would enjoy that? Tom Martin, Scott's basketball coach at the Christian school he
attended, had an idea. Coach Martin told Scott that he would reserve a spot on the varsity
for him -- if he would cooperate with his therapist and show progress in the tasks he was
asked to do. And Tom's wife Cindy spent many hours with Scott, encouraging him to keep
going. Within 2 months, Scott was riding off the basketball court on his teammates'
shoulders. He had made nine straight free throws to clinch a triple-overtime league
victory. It was a remarkable testimony of the power of encouragement.
Our Daily Bread.
An elderly widow, restricted in her activities, was eager to serve Christ. After
praying about this, she realized that she could bring blessing to others by playing the
piano. The next day she placed this small ad in the Oakland Tribune: "Pianist will
play hymns by phone daily for those who are sick and despondent--the service is
free." The notice included the number to dial. When people called, she would ask,
"What hymn would you like to hear?" Within a few months her playing had brought
cheer to several hundred people. Many of them freely poured out their hearts to her, and
she was able to help and encourage them.
The American painter, John Sargent, once painted a panel of roses that was highly
praised by critics. It was a small picture, but it approached perfection. Although offered
a high price for it on many occasions, Sargent refused to sell it. He considered it his
best work and was very proud of it. Whenever he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his
abilities as an artist, he would look at it and remind himself, "I painted
that." Then his confidence and ability would come back to him.
Bits & Pieces,
September 19, 1991, p. 9.
CBS News anchor Dan Rather admits he was always fascinated by the sport of boxing, even
though he was never good at it. "In boxing you're on your own; there's no place to
hide," he says. "At the end of the match only one boxer has his hand up. That's
it. He has no one to credit or to blame except himself." Rather, who boxed in high
school, says his coach's greatest goal was to teach his boxers that they absolutely,
positively, without question, had to be "get up" fighters. "If you're in a
ring just once in your life--completely on your own--and you get knocked down but you get
back up again, it's an never-to-be-forgotten experience. Your sense of achievement is
distinct and unique. And sometimes the only thing making you get up is someone in your
Reader's Digest, December, 1990.
Jean Nidetch, a 214 pound homemaker desperate to lose weight, went to the New York City
Department of Health, where she was given a diet devised by Dr. Norman Jolliffe. Two
months later, discouraged about the 50 plus pounds still to go, she invited six overweight
friends home to share the diet and talk about how to stay on it. Today, 28 years later,
one million members attend 250,000 Weight Watchers meetings in 24 countries every week.
Why was Nidetch able to help people take control of their lives? To answer that, she tells
a story. When she was a teen-ager, she used to cross a park where she saw mothers
gossiping while the toddlers sat on their swings, with no one to push them. "I'd give
them a push," says Nidetch. "And you know what happens when you push a kid on a
swing? Pretty soon he's pumping, doing it himself. That's what my role in life is--I'm
there to give others a push."
Irene Sax in Newsday.
Abraham Lincoln carried with him a newspaper clipping stating he was a great leader.
We can't all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
One man who was ousted from his profession for an indiscretion took work as a hod
carrier simply to put bread on the table. He was suddenly plunged into a drastically
different world; instead of going to an office each day, he was hauling loads of concrete
block up to the fifth level of a construction site. Gone was the piped-in music in the
corridors; now he had to endure blaring transistors. Any girl who walked by was subject to
rude remarks and whistles. Profanity shot through the air, especially from the foreman,
whose primary tactics were whining and intimidation; "For---sake, you---, can't you
do anything right? I never worked with such a bunch of --- in all my life..."
the end of the third week, the new employee felt he could take no more. "I'll work
till break time this morning," he told himself, "and then that's it. I'm going
home." He'd already been the butt of more than one joke when his lack of experience
caused him to do something foolish. The stories were retold constantly thereafter. "I
just can't handle any more of this." A while later, he decided to finish out the
morning and then leave at lunchtime.
Shortly before noon, the foreman came around with
paychecks. As he handed the man his envelope, he made his first civil comment to him in
three weeks. "Hey, there's a woman working in the front office who knows you. Says
she takes care of your kids sometimes." "Who?" He named the woman, who
sometimes helped in the nursery of the church where the man and his family worshiped. The
foreman then went on with his rounds. When the hod carrier opened his envelope, he found,
along with his check, a handwritten note from the payroll clerk: "When one part of
the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer with it. Just wanted you to know that I'm
praying for you these days." He stared at the note, astonished at God's timing. He
hadn't even known the woman worked for this company. Here at his lowest hour, she had
given him the courage to go on, to push another wheelbarrow of mortar up that ramp.
Merrill, Another Chance, Zondervan, 1981, p. 138.
Recently, I heard a touching story which illustrates the power that words have to
change a life -- a power that lies right in the hands of those reading this article. Mary
had grown up knowing that she was different from the other kids, and she hated it. She was
born with a cleft palate and had to bear the jokes and stares of cruel children who teased
her non-stop about her misshaped lip, crooked nose, and garbled speech. With all the
teasing, Mary grew up hating the fact that she was "different". She was
convinced that no one, outside her family, could ever love her ... until she entered Mrs.
Mrs. Leonard had a warm smile, a round face, and shiny brown hair. While everyone in
her class liked her, Mary came to love Mrs. Leonard. In the 1950's, it was common for
teachers to give their children an annual hearing test. However, in Mary's case, in
addition to her cleft palate, she was barely able to hear out of one ear. Determined not
to let the other children have another "difference" to point out, she would
cheat on the test each year. The "whisper test" was given by having a child walk
to the classroom door, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger, and then repeat
something which the teacher whispered. Mary turned her bad ear towards her teacher and
pretended to cover her good ear. She knew that teachers would often say things like,
"The sky is blue," or "What color are your shoes?" But not on that
day. Surely, God put seven words in Mrs. Leonard's mouth that changed Mary's life forever.
When the "Whisper test" came, Mary heard the words: "I wish you were my
Dads, I wish there was some way that I could communicate to you the incredible blessing
which affirming words impart to children. I wish, too, that you could sit in my office,
when I counsel, and hear the terrible damage that individuals received from not hearing
affirming words -- particularly affirming words from a father. While words from a godly
teacher can melt a heart, words from a father can powerfully set the course of a life.
If affirming words were something rarely spoken in your home growing up, let me give
you some tips on words and phrases that can brighten your own child's eyes and life. These
words are easy to say to any child who comes into your life. I'm proud of you, Way to go,
Bingo ... you did it, Magnificent, I knew you could do it, What a good helper, You're very
special to me, I trust you, What a treasure, Hurray for you, Beautiful work, You're a real
trooper, Well done, That's so creative, You make my day, You're a joy, Give me a big hug,
You're such a good listener, You figured it out, I love you, You're so responsible, You
remembered, You're the best, You sure tried hard, I've got to hand it to you, I couldn't
be prouder of you, You light up my day, I'm praying for you, You're wonderful, I'm behind
you, You're so kind to your (brother/sister), You're God's special gift, I'm here for you.
John Trent, Ph.D., Vice President of Today's Family, Men of Action, Winter 1993,
Statistics and Stuff
A compliment can be a great motivator, particularly if you put a little thought into
the why, when, and how of delivering it. Be sure to comment whenever someone on your staff
keeps working in the face of rejection, handles a difficult situation well, catches an
error, given another employee a helping hand, sells a particular product for the first
time, or gives you a lead that proves fruitful. Most of the time, a compliment should be
given in public, either at a meeting or on the company bulletin board. If the situation is
delicate, convey your praise through a personal note that the employee can share with his
family. As with all rewards, praise should be given immediately after good performance to
provide the greatest reinforcement.
Bits & Pieces, May 27, 1993, p. 12.