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WD-40, or On Praise

By Tess Dawson

When I was a kid going to Sunday School I used to hear the word “praise” get tossed around quite a bit. Even today, the word “praise” evokes in my mind an image of a beaming older woman happy to be at church, bringing her potluck tuna casserole in tow, and praising her god. Sitting there in Sunday school, I had time to wonder about the idea of “praise.” For years, I kept thinking, “Why the hell does a god need to know how great he is? That sounds like a divine ego problem. No thanks.” I haven’t thought that in years, but it occurred to me recently that this idea of praise needs readdressing and a makeover because quite a few of us come from a similar problematic relationship with the word “praise” and what it means, especially in a religious setting.

[Snip] The word “praise” is not just the kind, thoughtful words which are said, but the action of saying those kind and thoughtful words. Usually, praise is made known through words, but praise can also be done through gestures. For instance, when I worked as a secretary, I received flowers on Secretary’s Day from my boss: this was an action meant in gratitude and praise of the hard work I’d done. Accepting a trophy or receiving a laurel wreath: these are also acts of nonverbal praise. Praise and gratitude often go hand in hand, for an expression of praise is an acknowledgment that someone is good at something, you’ve noticed it, and it has made a difference. Praise plays a key role in relationships, whether we are aware of it or not. When we praise someone, we let them know that we value that person, we honor that person’s skills and expertise, and that there is some aspect of that person that we appreciate. Praise and gratitude are the WD-40 combination in relationships, smoothing out the friction of conflict and preventing the rust of disregard.

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