Yesterday I got a note from my older son who has had some difficulty finding his direction as a freshman in college. A couple of weeks ago, he shifted his course load to computer science and yesterday he reported he was very glad he had: He was interested, he was doing the homework, and he looked forward to going to class.
As a parent, I couldn't have been happier for him. I sent him some encouraging accolades and settled down into my own contentment, however temporary.
Not just because he is my son and I love him, it feels good to be glad for someone else and to praise them for their accomplishments. I like doing it -- joining some enthusiastic throng and applauding for anyone. Like music, it seems to open the heart, assert connection, and bring a sky-wide smile. How different from the constrictions of blame -- the closing of the heart and mind to one situation or person or another. Or, more subtle, the effort to withhold praise because of the vulnerability it can seem to imply: If I praise, then I lessen my own standing somehow.
It feels good to praise, but the average conversation is often salted with blame. Ain't it awful?!
As someone prone to lean towards praise, I think praise and blame both deserve examination. Who is praised? Who is blamed? And to what extent is it just a matter of elevating my own stock? I don't think anyone needs to fall into some thin-lipped unwillingness either to praise or to blame, but I do think both deserve examination.