I’m not talking about normal, every-day praise;
everyone tells each other “good job” or “nice work!” sometimes, and we like to hear it when we’ve done well, myself included. What I’m talking about is heavy handed, aggressive, domineering praise. Pointed praise. The kind that very much indicates that there’s more than what’s visible on the surface. It’s often followed by a pregnant pause or a deeply meaningful look. This overdone praise is the kind that invariably relates to right living; what the praiser deems to be good choices. Now, we’re not arguing the merit of making healthy choices here – that’s for another post. What we’re talking about is deigning to grace us with your benevolent approval of our life choices.
Confident that you’re right and enjoy collective accord as well, you announce your praise in a smug show highlighting your superiority and the obvious benefits of others following in your giant footsteps. You wield that approval like a ham-fisted giant shouting “fee fie fo fum!” Sure, you may have a large group of like-minded folks supporting you, they could very well be the people who surround you every day. But let’s not hang our hats on public opinion just yet.
Why is it so irritating? It wouldn’t be – if your praise weren’t dripping with judgement. When you are so insistent that we acknolwedge your approval of us, you’re showing us that you’ve judged us. Now I’m sure you’re shouting, but I judged you in a good way! The rub is that your judgement comes with a free side of hassle on the back end. Deeming our current choices as good and right, you are, by nature, deeming other choices we make to be wrong or bad – otherwise, the current choices couldn’t be good; that’s how it works, by comparison.
Basically, it’s beyond presumptuous to think you’re in a position to approve of anything others choose, whatsoever. Some scriptures agree with me, as do militant atheists, not to mention most folks inbetween the two. The big idea is that no, you are not in a position to issue approval or denial of someone else’s choices, even if you think they are good. It’s simply not up to you. There may be some exceptions, like if you’re a parent, you may certainly judge and praise away, that’s part of your job. But by and large, let’s leave praise to the same fate as disapproval: doled out sparingly and cautiously.
I mean, come on Diane, I shouldn’t have to hide my lunch to avoid your loud and fawning approval over my healthy choices. I’m eating a salad because it’s yummy, please don’t turn this into some kind of diet support group. I’m minding my own business in the lunchroom, we’re not huffing and puffing together on exercycles at Curves planning how many buckets of wine and ice cream we can down without adding more workout time. It’s a goddamn salad, not the Magna Carta.