Friday, August 15, 2014

The Effect of Praising a Poor Drawing

Italy SmallWhen I was in 6th grade my teacher gave an assignment to write a report on Italy. My report included a black and white population density map, that more closely resembled a poorly drawn boot than Italy. When the teacher returned the graded reports she held my map up as an example of something creative. While this made me feel good I was embarrassed because of the map's poor resemblance to Italy. However, her praise motivated me to do better (I wanted to please her again).

Italy colorOver time, my maps became works of art (or at least that is what I thought). I spent literally spent hours on them. I excelled in the class, got an A in geography as well as most other subjects, and have a life long interest in foreign countries. Had my teacher pointed out my map's obvious failing I would have been hurt and angered. I certainly would not have tried to please her by improving and most likely would have done poorly in the class.

The Power of Positive ThinkingI recently started re-reading The Power of Positive Thinking. In the foreword of the 2008 edition Pastor Robert Schuller shared an experience he had in 1957 when he introduced its author, Norman Vincent Peale to his congregation. As I read the following story the map incident was brought to mind.

It was time to introduce our guest. Before I knew what I was saying, I heard the following words come out of my mouth. “We have with us today the greatest positive thinker who has ever lived. His words have been heard and read by millions of people all over the world. He has changed more lives than can be counted. The greatest positive thinker who ever lived is here—with us—today!. In person! His name is … Jesus Christ! and here to tell us all about him is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.’”

Dr. Peale was surprised, I could see.

With his arms moving in sync, Dr. Peale boomed out, “If Jesus Christ were here today, would He tell you what a lost sinner you are?”

I nodded my head.

He continued, “Would He tell you how bad you are, how you’ve failed?”

Again I nodded in agreement.

Then he shocked me by shouting, “I don’t think so! Deep down in your heart you already know that: you already know just what your most grievous sins are!”

Then he peered out across this great multitude, make the most of a dramatic pause. “Jesus Christ never told anyone he was a sinner.”

After Dr. Peale’s sermon Dr. Schuller rushed home and grabbed his Bible looking to prove that this statement was incorrect. However he states:

I found that Dr. Peale had been right! What I didn’t find was a single place where Jesus had called any person a sinner!

As I reread the words of Jesus, I discovered that He focused not on people’s weaknesses but on their strengths, not on their short-comings but on their possibilities, not on their failures but on their successes!

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we emulated that example. It worked on me back in the 6th grade and many times since. If you haven’t read Dr. Peale’s book I would encourage you do so. You’ll find it inspiring.

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