Praising others can lift up their spirits, improve their self esteem, and motivate and encourage them to continue doing good things with even more energy and determination.
Tell a child off and you’ll see a sad face. Praise the child for doing something good, point out that she is smart, thank him for helping a sibling or a friend, and watch the smile grow, inside and out.
Criticism can sometimes be important and helpful, enabling us to better ascertain the right way to think and act. But a well-placed compliment enables us to shine, and to feel that we can achieve the impossible.
King Solomon wrote: (Poverbs 9; 9) “Give to a wise person, and that person will become even wiser.” On the surface this can mean, that when you inform and impart ideas to someone who is wise, they can use that knowledge to understand even more. But perhaps it also means, that when you give a wise person self-confidence, letting them know that they are wise, then that praise can lift and motivate them to become even wiser and to achieve new heights.
I remember Alan Dershowitz once wrote, that when he was a kid in summer camp, he was talking to an older counsellor, and at one point the counsellor looked at him and said, “Wow, you are really smart!” And that comment gave him tremendous self-confidence to later want to study and become a lawyer,
These days, with all the arguments and divisiveness, finding something good to say about someone can go a long way.
The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) relates that someone once came to Hillel and said, “Convert me (to Judaism) on condition that you teach me the entire Torah on one foot.” Hillel converted him, and then told him, “‘That which is hateful to you, don’t do to your friend.’ This is the entire Torah, and the rest is commentary. Now go study further.”
The question is, why did Hillel use a negative terminology? The Torah says it (in Leviticus 19; 18) in a positive way: “You shall love your fellow like yourself.”
The third Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, answers (in the book Derech Mitzvosecho) that people often (out of self-love) protect their self-esteem by ignoring or downplaying their own faults, and they resent very much If someone else highlights and points out the fault. So Hillel was saying, that which is hateful to you (namely, when someone points out your fault), don’t do to someone else (meaning, don’t point out and highlight another person’s shortcoming).
The Tzemach Tzedek explains that this is a modus operandi to fulfill the Mitzvah of loving one’s fellow. When we downplay and don’t mention or publicize another person’s fault, (just as we ignore our own faults, because of self-love) then we are feeling and manifesting love for another.
And then, the Tzemach Tzedek continues, G-d ignores our shortcomings. Because when we overlook our fellow’s faults, we highlight our intrinsic unity, namely our souls which are part of G-d, thus revealing our intrinsic unity with G-d. And then (being one with G-d), G-d ignores our faults (just as a person ignores their own faults).
We now live in auspicious times. The potential to excell in loving our fellows like ourselves is at our doorstep. By overlooking our fellow’s faults, and by looking for ways to praise the person and exhibit baseless love, we rectify the main cause of exile, namely baseless hatred, and we create the potential for a speedy end of exile with the complete Redemption, a time when the whole world will be at peace, as the prophet said: (Isaiah 2; 4) “No nation will lift a sword against another nation, and no one will study warfare any more.”
When G-d will gather all Jews to the land of Israel, and all will see that we are one nation, revealing G-d’s Oneness in the entire world.
May it happen now.