Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) was a writer and physician, and the father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Dr. Holmes, Sr. loved to be flattered, and in his old age he took advantage of his loss of hearing to get more flattery. When someone would compliment him, he would say, “I am a trifle deaf, you know. Do you mind repeating that a little louder.” The usual result was a repeated and broadened compliment, A LITTLE LOUDER.
Who among us does not like to be praised and flattered? Praise is valuable, but we have to be careful with flattery. When Eddie Haskel “complimented” Mrs. Cleaver on the old Leave it to Beaver show, his flattery was dripping with insincerity. Someone has said, “Flattery is like chewing gum─enjoy it briefly, but don’t swallow it.”
On the other hand, though, sincere praise and commendation may be just what many of us need. One of the great servants in the early church was a man named Joses, a Levite from Cyprus, who “having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:37). Because of his great works in the kingdom, the apostles renamed him Barnabas, or “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36).
This Levite from Cyprus had a tremendous effect on the early church. “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord” (Acts 11:24). Without his influence, the church at Jerusalem might have never accepted Paul (Acts 9:27). His work as a missionary was invaluable to the spread of the gospel. He was able to have such a significant impact because he was an encourager.
The world, and the church, are both filled with people who just need to hear a good word some time. Many struggle through day after day, unable to see anything or anyone to cheer them on their way. You could just make someone’s day, just by saying the right thing. They don’t need dishonest flattery, but honest encouragement and appreciation could make such a great difference. We’re all “a trifle deaf” when it comes to hearing compliments and good things. I challenge you to be a Barnabas this week!