Father Faber points out a dilemma: “Few men can do without praise, and there are few circumstances under which a man can be praised without injuring him.”
He observes: “Some men can do without the praise of others because their own is so unfailing. Their vanity enables them to find self-praise sufficient. Vanity is the most comfortable of vices. The misfortune is, that nevertheless it is a vice. Some try to do without praise, and grow moody and critical, which shows their grace was not adequate for their attempt. Some do without praise because they are all for God, but, alas! it would not occupy us long to take the census of that portion of the world’s population. Most men must have praise. Their fountains dry up without it. Everyone in authority knows this well enough. He has to learn to praise without seeming to praise.”
“Kindness has all the virtues of praise without its vices. It is equally medicinal without having the poisonous qualities. When we are praised, we are praised at some expense, and at our own expense. Kindness puts us to no expense, while it enriches those who are kind to us. Praise always implies some degree of condescension, and condescension is a thing intrinsically ungraceful, whereas kindness is the most graceful attitude one man can assume towards another. So here is another work it does. It supplies the place of praise. It is, in fact, the only sort of praise which does not injure, the only sort which is always and everywhere true, the only kind which those who are afraid of growing conceited may welcome safely.”
“A kind man is a man who is never self-occupied. He is genial, he is sympathetic, he is brave. How shall we express in one word these many things which kindness does for us who practise it? It prepares us with a special preparation for the paths of the disinterested love of God.”
Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).