Your ability to perceive good in others is a reflection of goodness within you. The source of that goodness however, is borne from something much larger than you both.
I remember attending one of the coolest weddings I’ve ever been to (on a safari in Port Lympne!) and I recall the beautiful hospitality of the bride’s family but specifically I recall the words of the father of the bride. Whenever I said thank you or you are so kind or praised any part of the beautiful day, he would repeat that ‘I am merely your mirror, a reflection of the light within you’.
It wasn’t your average wedding, there were several meals during the day, lawn games and to top it off, all guests were taken on a sunset safari. It was one of those weddings where, as a guest, you feel a bit lame; there is all this giving and outpouring of love and you just feel infinitely grateful to witness it and be in its presence. I wanted to convey my heartfelt thanks and positive feedback: I really enjoyed this wedding! So much so that afterwards, I diagnosed myself with PWDS – Post Wedding Depression Syndrome. I repeatedly expressed my delight and thanks but it was repeatedly passed back to me. This puzzled me.
It took me a while to understand; I thought he just refused to accept praise and was being too humble. That is part of it but now I understand more fully, because I now also find praise odd; when someone praises me, I feel a weird sense of guilt, I feel like an impostor because I am not the actual owner of that praise.
When praise sits inside me, I feel as though it rots my soul.
I now understand two deeper meanings that offer a more profitable understanding of praise:
- When you see good in someone else; it is a mirror – a reflection of the goodness within you. When you are able to see that, it is because you are already a vessel which contains it. If you lay your ego aside, forget praise, you would realise that you are just a jug or a cup, a nondescript vessel through which God manifests His light and love and reminds you of His Nearness. If you have the gift of seeing beauty in the hearts of others, it is because God has gifted you with that light and love inside you.
- We are conduits of light and love through God’s Mercy but we are not its owners. This is why Muslims say Alhamdulillah (All Praise is to God) – for truly we are not the owners of that praise; He is. I’m not even rightly sure that most Muslims realise deeply the meaning of this phrase “Alhamdulillah”, though they canonically repeat it often. Ultimately praise does not belong to us. When we look for and accept praise for ourselves, we slowly let in a poison that feeds the monster more commonly known as our ego.
All good is from Him, all bad is from our own egos. Our hunger for praise sabotages not only ourselves but also our relationships with others. Accept praise but do not covet it nor allow your self-worth to become determined by it; your worth will be determined by the Almighty, not by the praise of fellow sinners.
Social media is such a perpetual mutual appreciation bubble – like, retweet, like, like, like. We are valid because God created us. We are validated because He gave us faith. We do not need to seek validation from one another.
Praise is a toxin to human beings; only with Allah does praise meet its righteous owner.
TLDR: Basically just think of yourself as a jug!