Sunday, March 06, 2005

The “Butter Slide of Praise”: Surviving Success

With gratitude to C.K. Chesterton

One of the great enemies of creativity and growth is success. C.K. Chesterton comments on this by stating: “the winner most quickly moves away from greatness when he is gliding on the butter-slide of praise. (Paraphrased)” There is a sense in which our human nature cannot help but feed our pride in these moments.
The results are deadly: the butter fills our hunger, the praise softens our drive, and we begin to work for the praise of men and not the applause of heaven. Our focus becomes “me”. It feels so good to lie down and bask in this state of luxury, but if we succumb to sleep we forfeit success. This is because our success tomorrow is dependent on today’s decisions and work.
Does this mean we never stop? Never enjoy? – No- we need the balance and discipline to keep the proper pace in life. But accept the pleasure after the work and do not taste the honey so long it becomes bitter.
What then can one do to prevent the spoilage of success to rob us of progress?
There are a few points to ponder:

• Do not let sophistication rob us of appreciation
Have we forgotten the simple pleasures that used to really get us excited? Can we not recapture the joy of the mundane? Does it all have to be perfect to suit our fancy? A simple man can still enjoy the sunset without the limousine and caterer.
• Do not allow the critics to choke us, frame us, or create fear
Critics by nature find flaws, do not let them steal your joy. Critics have no capacity to see the 95% good, they work overtime to explain the 5% that is bad. They have no answers, but do a beautiful job describing the problems. These people are never a pressure point to those who evaluate under the mighty hand of God and live for His approval.
• Never lose the ability to wonder, discover, and learn
It is a gift of “childlike faith” to wonder and marvel. The humble man never gets tired of contemplating the wind and still shudders at the design of his hands, feet, or eyes. He is not the expert – “the fool who thinks he already knows it all”. He is a lifelong learner- and humble enough to be taught by a child.
• Practice the phrases of edification
There are more negative words in English than positive. The man of perseverance works hard to cultivate the praise of God and others. There is always new energy about this person because people are encouraged and “built up” around him. It is always “OPERATION CAN DO”
• Do not let fads discredit tradition, do not let tradition stifle improvement
The long-term winner is never afraid of change, but never changes just for the sake of it. He is wary of fads, and sees that a truly great idea does not wear out in time. He never clings to tradition, but does honor it. He is a little behind the fast pocket of progressivism, but a always ahead of the dust of the dinosaur
• Direct the butter of praise to God and seek godly humility, not self-deprecation.
In the long run…..all praise is due to HIM. It keeps us hungry, humble, and holy. We need not practice “aww shucks” humility, but say “we are great because our God is great!”

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