One of my family’s weirder slogans or expressions — Self-Praise Stinketh – came into being on account of me. As the story goes, I said so many nice things about myself that they shortened it to SPS to save their breath. Later in life, I had to ask myself, “Why did I do that? Why was I constantly affirming myself?”
It dawned on me
Although my family loved me, they did not often compliment me or praise my accomplishments. When I talked to my mother about it much later in life, she said they didn’t want me to get a big head or grow up to be arrogant. But she also expressed regret and said she wished she had done it differently.
Comedians Amy Poehler and Bill Hader met when they worked at Saturday Night Live. They talked to journalist Neil Pond about how their parents’ specific words of praise made an impact on their future.
Hader: “I grew up in Tulsa, Okla. I was maybe 5 or 6, and we drove past Oral Roberts University, and in front are these giant praying hands. My grandmother said, ‘What are those?’ And I said, ‘They’re the praying hands.’ And she was like, ‘Oh.’ And I said, ‘And at midnight, they clap.’ She didn’t laugh; I think she thought I was serious, because I said it very dry. But my mom started laughing so hard. And we got home and she told my dad and he laughed really hard and asked me, ‘You just said that, huh?’ That was a moment I realized, Oh, that was funny.”
Most of us have experienced first-hand, in our lifetime, the disappearance of silence. Our distracting and distracted culture influences the children in our lives. As Glenn Hinson said,
“Noise desensitizes; silence sensitizes.”
We recognize how uninterrupted distraction diverts attention away from the most important matters in a child’s (and our) life:
- emotional upsets needing perspective
- decisions calling for wisdom
- important relationships deserving time and effort (including God)
How hard it is for me to catch on!
Silence allows me to maintain the connection between my inner life and my many activities. Whenever I get to spend time with the children in my family, or with family friends, I usually think first of what fun activities we can do together. Yet I’ve seen how a quiet car ride home gives the children time to process the events. I’m learning to pay attention to silence, and not to fill it with chatter.