Today is Ash Wednesday. In the Christian faith, that is the day that kicks off the season of Lent. Lent represents the 40 days Christ spent fasting in the wilderness. Traditionally something is given up for Lent as a sacrifice. For me it has always been difficult coming up with something that would be a sacrifice, yet still doable.
Tonight I heard a sermon that gave me a different idea. The pastor I was listening to suggested that instead of removing something from our lives, we add something to them. He suggested we find one person from our past, each week, and tell that person about the positive impact that he or she made on our lives. But instead of stopping there, we should also compliment one person each day.
This seems like a great idea to me. While sacrificing something we enjoy might show our devotion to God, it does nothing to better the world. If we do it out of spiritual pride it does nothing to better us. On the other hand, complimenting another human being does. At the very least it gives that person a temporary emotional lift. I consider that to be enough of a reason to make the effort. But the effects could be much greater. A well timed compliment has the power to turn a life around.
We never know what is going on in another person's life. I've lost count of the number of times I've been in a bad place and someone has said something that has helped me get through it. Something we might think of as an offhand comment might be exactly what someone else needs.
By consciously handing out compliments we give God the chance to use us to make this world a better place. It also offers us the opportunity to be better people. Instead of concentrating on our lives, it forces us to think about others, and how our words and actions affect them. This should lead us to be more thoughtful and kind. After all, it is much more difficult to make a thoughtless remark when we are thinking of the effect it will have.
Obviously neither track can earn God's favor, but one does have the chance of doing His work in this world.