Human Praise and Censure
1. It is pleasant to be praised. If
we are praised by our superiors or by someone of importance on whom the
future success of our career may depend, we naturally tend to feel
Nevertheless, a certain amount of reflection makes us
aware that we are what we are before God, and nothing more. Human praise
adds nothing to us, just as human criticism subtracts nothing. In
either case we ourselves remain as we were beforehand.
art, that thou art,” says “The Imitation of Christ,” “nor canst thou be
said to be greater than God seeth thee to be. If thou attend diligently
to what thou art interiorly, thou wilt not regard what men say of thee.
Man looketh on the face, but God seeth into the heart. Man considereth
the actions, but God weigheth the intentions.” (Imit. of Christ, Bk. II,
c. 6, 3)
Why, then, does praise disturb or exalt us? It is
because our lack of humility causes us to desire the vain encomiums of
the world and to believe that these make us better and greater than we
really are in the sight of God. A man who is genuinely humble remains
serenely indifferent to the eulogies of others. He knows that he is what
he is in the sight of God, and no more than that. Therefore he does his
best to please God and to work for His glory rather than his own
“He is not approved who commends himself,” writes
St. Paul, “but he whom the Lord commands.” (2 Cor. 10:18) Let us cease
to worry about the plaudits of mankind, but let us live and work
conscientiously in the presence of God. Let it be our sole purpose in
life to please Him and to promote His glory.
2. Criticism and
correction disturb our peace of mind as much as the praise of others. We
are filled with resentment and find it hard to control ourselves. Very
often, unfortunately, when something is said to us which we consider to
be offensive, we are overcome by anger and launch into bitter outbursts
of recrimination. Once more, the reason is obvious. It is our lack of
We know quite well that we are no better than we appear
to be in the sight of God. Praise adds nothing to our stature, any more
than criticism takes from it.
Unfortunately, while we realise
this in theory, we do not recogise it in practice. It was because the
Saints were meek and humble like Jesus that they reached such heights of
spiritual tranquillity in the face of flattery or of reproof.
Even when he was mocked and calumniated, St. Francis de Sales succeeded
in maintaining complete self-control and amiability. But this was the
result of a long struggle with his natural disposition. Have you even
begun to exercise self-control?
3. The following passage from “The Imitation of Christ” is a fitting conclusion to this meditation:
“The good man’s glory is the testimony of a good conscience. Have a
good conscience, and thou shalt always have joy. A good conscience can
bear very much, and is very joyful in the midst of adversity…
“The glory of the good is in their own consciences, and not in the mouth of men. The joy of the just is from God and in God…
“Great tranquility of heart hath he who careth neither for praise nor
blame. Easily will he be content and at peace whose conscience is
undefiled. Thou art more holy for being praised nor the worse for being
blamed. What thou art, that thou art; nor canst thou be said to be
greater than God seeth thee to be.” (Cf. Imit. of Christ, Bk. II)
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