One of the functions of historical bards was to sing the praises of heroes, great leaders and other worthy figures. To be ennobled in verse by a bard was to have a place in history, and when you’ve got a culture that doesn’t leave a written record, being part of the oral tradition is the only way of being remembered.
However, praise does not have to be the just the business of epic poetry, and doesn’t have to just be about war heroes. It’s something that any of us can choose as an aspect of daily practice. It’s a way of integrating your Druidry into ‘normal’ life, you can see it as part of your service, and it has a lot of powerful effects.
From an individual perspective, the giving of praise is currently seen as a way of developing your self-assertive skills and therefore can help raise self esteem. Giving praise is one of the easiest kinds of opinion to offer – let’s face it, very few people are going to reject praise or give you a hard time for praising them, so if self assertion is a difficult issue for you, praise is a safe way in. There’s also the fact that it feels good. We don’t have a culture that praises, so it may feel a bit odd at first, but it’s such an inherently lovely thing to be doing.
Having work recognised is the most tremendous morale boost. That’s as true for artists as it is for the person who just washed the kitchen floor. Recognition gives a sense of self worth, a feel-good reward for the effort made. Knowing the work had a value to someone else makes it easier to keep working. Knowing your efforts are recognised saves you from feeling taking for granted. It’s all good. While money is frequently an issue for people who live by their creativity, it’s not the be all and end all. A few words of encouragement, a round of applause, helps keep a person going. If you can’t pay your bard for their efforts, let them know you enjoyed what they did.
It’s easy to take things, and people for granted. Why thank the person who was just doing the job they were paid for? Why honour the person who was doing what any decent person should be expected to do, in the circumstances? Because it isn’t always as easy as it may look from the outside. Just because there is money doesn’t mean recognising the value doesn’t matter. A word of thanks, praise or appreciation can turn drudgery into something meaningful.
When it comes to children, there are learning implications around praise. The child who is only ever told off and criticised will have low self esteem, little confidence in their abilities and may come to think there’s no point even trying. The child who is praised for their efforts and progress feels good about learning, is motivated to learn, consolidates their successes and is likely to do better. More carrot, less stick.
There are also implications for relationships. Giving praise to those around you is a simple way of reinforcing bonds, be those of family, community, work colleagues, or amorous in nature. Praise shows appreciation, it shows that you value and enjoy those around you. This in turn improves their sense of self, their morale, their enjoyment of life, and probably increases their positive feelings towards you. Once a culture of praise is established, you are more likely to receive praise in return, which is a bonus.
There are many things it’s easy to be stingy with, without even noticing it. Praise is one of those. Being generous with praise is incredibly powerful though. Voice your gratitude. Honour those who take care of you. In praising what is good, you shift your focus towards the good things and away from the less good things. It’s win all round.
I’d like to round off this blog by praising a few people publically. Dalia Craig, my editor, who goes far above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis, makes words look beautiful on the page, and is endlessly patient with my foibles. I would like to praise Robin Herne, running this weekend’s Pooka’s Pageant (to raise money for a Hare charity) and kindly giving me some performance space as I come out of hermitdom. Running events is hard work, takes considerable skill, a lot of nerve and vision. Wendy Stokes running the Lightworker’s Hub, always supportive, nurturing, generous with her experience and wisdom.
There are many more who deserve public acts of gratitude. I shall catch up with them where opportunities permit.
And thank you, to all of you who leave insightful, inspiring, challenging, provocative and enlightening comments here (especially Alex, who hardly misses a day). Much appreciated.