“A pleasant face is a silent recommendation” (Publilius Syrus).
THIS QUOTATION FROM PUBLILIUS SYRUS IS CONTROVERSIAL. Not everybody agrees with it, for it is an obvious fact that pleasant faces can sometimes deceive us as to the true character of those who wear them. But even so, if you or I need a recommendation of our character, a smile and a pleasant demeanor may carry as much weight as any recommendation that someone else might give us.
But occasionally we do need someone else to recommend us. In other words, we need another person to make a “favorable statement concerning [our] character or qualifications” (American Heritage Dictionary). For today’s meditation, though, let’s think about it from the opposite direction. Isn’t it a great opportunity when we can recommend — or say something favorable about — someone else?
Praise is a powerful thing. Most of us recognize how encouraging it is to our friends and loved ones when we praise their good qualities. But in addition to praising them directly, what about the importance of praising them to other people? I don’t believe we should limit our recommendation of others to the times when they list us as a reference or ask us for a letter of recommendation. We should look for every chance to say good things about others — even when they haven’t asked us to. If we’re going to talk behind their back, why can’t we focus on the good things that can truthfully be said about them?
A word of warning is in order, however. There is an old saying that “praise is no recommendation.” It takes more than mere words to recommend somebody. If your own character is not what it ought to be, then you may “praise” others profusely, but the words will have a distinctly hollow ring in the ears of those who know you.
Let me give you an example. Imagine a conversation in which you are praising somebody to a third party. In that conversation, however, you also badmouth some other people, thinking that your recommendation of one person will be enhanced by the fact that you are cutting down everybody else. Don’t fool yourself. If you are a malicious person, your “recommendations” will not be taken seriously.
“Of little worth is the recommendation which has for its prop the defamation of another” (Tertullian).