19 June, 2014
Wuppy! It’s World Praise Day today! Haven’t heard about World Praise Day? So what? We’re free to make up our own special days, na? That’s what I did today! This morning, I said to myself, “There’s Mother’s Day and Teacher’s Day and Friendship Day and World Environment Day and so on—so why not Praise Day?” And so, World Praise Day it is!
Displaying Happy Peepal
Let me tell you all about how I hit upon the idea of World Praise Day. This morning, I started off on a really awful note. I was having a whale of a time, snoring under a mountain of blankets and dreaming about trekking up in the high Himalayas, when I was rudely shaken awake by my father bellowing at the top of his voice! He was hollering at my mother, and she was screeching back at him. It was so, so very scary—you have to believe me! If you had heard the things they said to each other, you’d shiver in horror!
I thought I’d escape as soon as I could, and so I rushed out of my bedroom and into the kitchen for a hurried bite before slipping out of the house. I had hoped I’d be able to snatch five quick minutes of peace and quiet by myself while I gobbled some breakfast when my mother barged into the kitchen and began badgering the home-help for being late. She tried to needle me into joining her in her harangue, but I pretended to be busy reading the newspaper. That didn’t help things at all though. Today’s paper was, as usual, full of horror stories: of rival political parties haranguing each other, of one country threatening to invade another, of the self-styled leader of a religious community spewing venom against the adherents of a different faith. Everywhere—at home and in the world outside—no one, it seemed, had a single good to say about or to anyone else! At that moment, I really wished the world would end at once!
Now, I admit that this sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. My parents aren’t at each other’s hair all the time. My mother isn’t always harsh with the home-help. Politicians don’t spend all their time back-biting their rivals. Nor are countries always mean to their neighbours or all religious leaders consistently hostile to people of other faiths. But if we closely examine ourselves when we speak, we’ll discover, to our horror, that talking ill about others seems to come to most of us much more easily than praising them. That we rarely realise this is a sign of how ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ it has become for us. Bad-mouthing others happens effortlessly, while saying anything good to or about them requires, for most of us at least, considerable effort and not a little resistance against a deep-rooted reluctance. For some compulsive gossipers, there’s nothing more enjoyable than non-stop complaining about others. If they run out of people to criticize, they have the weather, the taste and consistency of the Daal, the size and thickness of the chapattis, the prices of vegetables, the condition of the country’s politics, or the state of the world in general to bemoan! For folks with low self-esteem, there’s nothing more satisfying than berating other people. It makes them feel better about themselves for a while.
Imagine what a wonderful change it would make—to our own individual lives and to the state of things on our planet as a whole—if, even for just a single day, we refrained from cribbing about others, and, instead, said just a few nice words to or about them! It might, if kept up with sincerity, soon turn into a regular habit—and what a world of difference that would make! Imagine the momentous impact of husbands and wives, employers and employees, and various political parties, communities and countries that consider each other as mortal enemies agreeing to refrain from bad-mouthing each other for one day, during which period they exchanged a few words of heartfelt praise for each other! This might require some effort to begin with, because our egos—at both the individual and collective levels—don’t take easily to accepting that others might be as good as, or better than, us. Moreover, many of us would refuse to accept the fact that abundant goodness inheres in every person simply on account of his or her being human—on account of us all being fellow children of the one God, and, therefore, possessing the same, basic God-given nature, which is rooted in goodness.
Initially, we might have to think hard to locate anything to praise in people or situations that we’ve habitually grumbled about. But, surely, there’s goodness in even the seemingly worst sinner and in what appears to be the most difficult situation. With a bit of practice, locating goodness around us, even in the darkest corners, is bound to become spontaneous.
Making the effort to praise the positive in others and to locate goodness in even the most difficult and trying situations does not mean condoning or ignoring the negative side of things. Rather, it is a recognition that ‘good’ and ‘bad’, negative and positive, go hand-in-hand, and that there’s no person or situation without both of them, to varying degrees. In this world, there is no such thing as a perfectly evil or a perfectly good person or situation. As Jesus beautifully put it, “No one is good—except God alone”.
Fault-finding and complaining about others is a sure way for us to remain miserable. The more we complain about people, things and situations, the unhappier we ourselves are. In contrast, recognising and celebrating in open praise the goodness in the people and situations we encounter can fill our own lives with joy, besides gladdening the hearts of others. If you feel good about others, you’re bound to feel good about yourself, too. Praising others, in other words, does at least as much good to ourselves as it does to those whom we praise. It’s a definite way to becoming a happier person. Try it out for yourself, if you don’t believe me!
If praising the goodness in others were to become a regular practice, think of what amazing wonders it would do to our relationships—to relationships between individuals as well as between entire communities and countries! Praise is a guaranteed method to help heal conflicts, build bridges, and make relationships—at the family, social, inter-community and even international levels—more expansive, joyful and mutually-enriching.
Thinking these thoughts as I slipped out of my house this morning, I hit upon the idea of World Praise Day! So what if, right now, the only person who knows about it is me? I’m sure that you, too, will jump at the idea as you read these lines! All you need to do is to say just a few words of praise to or about at least ten people you meet, talk about or think about today. If at least one of them is someone you love to hate, it’s even better! If you find this exercise difficult, the least you can do is to consciously refrain from complaining about any person, thing or situation you come across today.
I know it may not be easy—new things often aren’t—but do try this little experiment! At the end of the day, you’re bound to discover that your day’s been really and especially joyful!
Happy World Praise Day to You!