davidsdailydiction asked: Dear Unka Glen, I am in college (in England, college is our name for an equivalent of high school) and apply myself most to art. I spend a lot of time on what I create, and although I get commended by my teachers and fellow students, I never feel like I get sincerely commended by my parents or family. I’m trying to be more humble, and I’m wondering is it wrong to strive for the praise of others? Is it wrong to want recognition?
Unka Glen answered: Nope, nothing wrong on your part here. If you plan on earning a living, you’ll need to either produce something of value, or perform a service that others value in some way. It makes sense that you’d look to those closest to you for a sense of whether or not you’re creating something of value.
Now, your family may not be qualified to judge, so there’s that, but there’s also a principle of normal human social interaction, called “knowing how to act like a person”. As a young man, when you say to a grown and mature person, “hey I made some art,” the response should always be one of the following:
- It reminds me of Michelangelo
- That’s the dog’s bollocks, mate! (I Britishized that one, and you’re welcome)
- Er, well, I don’t know what I’m looking at, but I know I love it
When you love people, you love the creative stuff that comes out of them, even if it’s not to your taste. As such, there are two different kinds of families, those who are stingy with their praise, and loving families.
It’s important though to know that Jesus went through much the same thing. In Matthew 13 we read: “Coming to his hometown, Jesus began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”
But now let me tell you a contrasting story. There is a legend, maybe true, maybe not, doesn’t matter, that a certain famous theology professor would bow to his students before giving them his lectures. When asked why he did that, he explained that, who knows, maybe one of these students will go on to become a great man of God, and I want to be the first to show the proper respect.
According to the legend, Martin Luther was one of his students.
Now, what I’m suggesting to you, is that people make a conscious choice, to either see themselves as the older, smarter, wiser, more important person, and young people need to know their place and abandon all hope of out-pacing me at anything. Or they choose the humble path that says, surely, if I teach this young person, they will stand on my shoulders and do greater things than I have.
You either expect that those around you will rise up and do great things, or you expect that you have arrived at greatness, and it’s up to everyone else to appreciate it. Be the first of those two, and then surround yourself with people like you. Surround yourself with people who will be honest, but encouraging, and who not only accept that you will rise up, they expect that you will.
When it comes to the reaction of family (or lack thereof), it often says more about them than it does about you, and that’s a shame. Sometimes people lack the courage to push through the stiff way they were brought up. But make no mistake, if you were my son, I’d leave no doubt: I’m your number one fan. Period.
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