Compliment before Criticizing

Merwin VanDoornik

READ : 2 John 1:4

Spare the rod and spoil the child” says the familiar proverb. But Martin Luther added his thoughts on this advice: “Yes, use the rod if you must but keep an apple close to the rod so you can also reward the child when he does well.” Today we may have to offer something other than the apple (with apologies to apple growers) but the principle remains: if a child hears only negatives he will soon wonder if he can do anything well or if anyone cares for him. And that soon becomes: “If everyone else is against me, could God Himself care about me?”

John knew he had to warn this “chosen lady” lest she entertain false teachers. But before he corrects he compliments (v. 4). As someone said more recently: “It takes ten `That-a-boy’s to make up for one `You jerk!’” Paul knew this, too. In his letters he had much to criticize but he always began with compliments.

A homework assignment: try for one day to praise and compliment more than you criticize and complain. It won’t be an easy assignment, but you’ll feel very good once you’ve completed it. And other folks will feel much better too!


“Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth You have for me, Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth that You send clear. Open my mouth and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere. Open my heart and let me prepare love with Your children thu