Have you ever wondered why people seem to be so cranky?
Do something about it.
Here’s a mundane example. I had to make a stop at the pharmacy last week to pick up some prescriptions for my mother. The refill requests had been submitted online, so in theory the order should have been ready.
I stood in line, and when I reached the counter, handed the woman my mother’s medical card. She frowned in perplexity as she checked the computer; only one of the prescriptions had been filled. There was a record of the other being submitted, but for some reason it hadn’t been processed. Would I be willing to wait for it? she asked. It would take about twenty minutes.
“That’s fine,” I responded, glad that I had thought to bring a book with me just in case. She told me that when the prescription was ready, I didn’t have to stand in line again, but could come right back to the counter.
I sat down to read. Behind me, the line grew longer, stretching all the way to the door. I hated the thought of cutting in front of others, even if I had permission; how would the people standing (im)patiently in line know?
Moreover, I’ve been approached in public many times by people from our church who were strangers to me but had seen me in the pulpit. What if one of them was in line? What kind of ungenerous thoughts would my behavior stir up? I decided that unless she actually called me back to the counter, I’d stand in line again, just like everyone else.
I happily returned to the counter and we completed our transaction. But I added a parting shot: “Thanks for calling me up. That was so much easier than having to cut in line.”
She smiled and blushed, as if I had just said, “You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.” And I thought, I’ll bet she doesn’t get much appreciation in this job.
To be purely pragmatic: if you show appreciation for behavior you like, you’ll probably get more of it. It’s certainly true in families (parents, don’t take children’s cooperation or good behavior for granted!) and can extend to other relationships as well.
But I think also of Acts 4:36, in which a Levite named Joseph is given the nickname “Barnabas.” Luke explains that this means “son of encouragement,” and throughout the rest of the book, it’s that name, not “Joseph,” that sticks.
Luke doesn’t tell us why the apostles decided to call him that (as opposed to, say, “Lefty” or “Beetle Brain”). But if it was because Joseph had a knack for encouraging others, the apostles seemed to think it was worth noting publicly.
Maybe there’s a lesson in there for our own discipleship.