Saturday, October 23, 2010

Avoiding Vanity

In the olden days I played defense for our hockey teams. I wasn't all that bad a defenseman. I wasn't the best skater on the team for sure, and I wasn't rough and tough. I was a "stay at home" defenseman, moved the puck forward well and stickhandled skillfully! Whenever I had a really good game,my dad would say, "That Jackie Clark is a terrific forward!" Tantalizing, but the string was pulled just out of reach! Whenever I brought my spelling tests home my mother always wanted to see the word I spelled wrong! I'm not complaining, I'm just observing. The carrot was held just in front of my nose! I tried hard to munch! My best buddy in those days was my brother, Ken. Later when I was the new boy in a prairie medical clinic I often showed the senior guy my good results. I was looking for affirmation. Eventually he said, "Jim, I know you are a good surgeon but I'm too busy to keep patting you on the back all the time." Gulp! The head of the clinic once said to me, "If a patient gives you splendid feedback, suck it up, because you'll be able to withstand the brick bats more easily!" Good advice! Is this reluctance to praise the praiseworthy the fear of instilling vanity into the big striver? It certainly made me work harder to eke out that scintilla of praise that came. King Solomon, who was a very smart guy said "Vanity of vanities,all is vanity".It sounded like danger to the devout! The residual Presbyterianism in my parents may have taken that to heart in the olden days. They praised with a faint damn to our face, but waxed on about us to their friends. Somehow we knew this and that had to be enough! Today's parents are supportive and rightly effusive about the children's success to their face.I'm not sure that the new approach is any more effective frankly, but it is more pleasing. Even slight praise from the constipated provides a small hard thing to be savored!

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