Point Out Good Things In Others! A lot!
I had a professor in Bible college who did not start out as a great teacher. Nonetheless, I loved him as a person. In fact, he was a great source of ministry and parenting advice. His advice always worked. Over the years, he developed his skills as a teacher and became a respected and beloved Bible college professor. He had his own unique style, but it worked. More importantly, people learned a lot from him.
This professor became so well loved at the Bible college that people affectionately called him the Archbishop. It was just a nickname, there was nothing irreverent or disrespectful meant by it. It was simply a term that embodied our respect for him.
People don’t know this, because I’ve never told anyone before this moment, but when I would walk into his office, he would always greet me as Archbishop. The honorific greeting was followed by a big hug and then lots of talk about the topic of the moment. It was always a positive and uplifting experience.
During that season of his academic ministry, the "Archbishop" was diagnosed with a cancer that ultimately took his life. I was so busy during those last few months of his life, that I did not make time to see him. Perhaps I was in denial about his imminent death. Perhaps I wasn't able to confront my feelings about my own mortality. Either way, I missed out on some important moments.
I was quite surprised when I arrived at the Archbishop's funeral. There were at least a thousand people in attendance. I sat in awe as person after person stood up and told the most amazing stories about ways my professor had blessed them. There were well-known pastors who sang his praises. Family, friends, and students told story after story of his mighty deeds. Had he been a Viking, he would have made it into Valhalla easily.
As I listened to the speakers, I realized that I had never told him how much he meant to me. I never told him how much I appreciated his growth as a professor. I never told him I loved him as a brother in Christ and a fellow human being. Maybe he just knew all that stuff, but I’ll never know. I wondered how many of these other people had said all these wonderful things about him to his face before he died. I rather suspect that they had missed their opportunity like I did.
Walking out of the church that afternoon, I left with a heavy heart. I stopped next to my car and began to pray. When I finished praying, I made a declaration to God that went something like this, “Lord, let Dr. Oakley be the last person that ever goes to the grave without knowing the good things that I think about them, and the ways that they have made my life better. Forgive me for being so quick to voice complaints and so slow to voice compliments.”
By God’s grace, I have lived by my declaration to this day. When my father died a couple of years ago, I had just spent a week with him. I knew he wasn't long for this world and we lived on opposite sides of the country, so the gravity of it being our last physical meeting was not lost on me. During our time together, I told him all the things that I needed to tell him; everything I wanted him to hear from me. Our final words were rare and precious for us.
"I love you Dad" "I love you too, son."
Then a unicorn appeared. OK, not really, but something almost as mythical, my dad hugged me. I immediately turned and walked away because I knew in my heart that was last time I'd see him in person and I didn't want him to see my tears.
Dad died two weeks later. I was going to call him that morning after I got home from an early morning appointment. I guess that conversation will have to wait until I see him in Heaven.
I thank God for the Archbishop and for the regrets that I have from not telling him how I felt. That experience made my father's passing so much easier and it has blessed me profoundly to look for ways to compliment others.
You know, it’s easy to point out flaws and shortfalls. Why not try something new? Point out beauty, success and strengths. Complimenting others is a bit of an art form, so you may flub a few compliments. I know I have, but the awkwardness will be worth it. I promise you won’t regret it. People might even be glad to see you coming!
In memory of
Dr. Terry "The Archbishop" Oakley