“Do We Pick Out The Flaws, Or Rejoice In The Painter?”


I was sitting in an afternoon school class during the middle of my eighth-grade year when a girl sitting across from me named Nancy asked me, totally out of the blue, “Do you ever clean your ears?” I didn’t know what to say and she didn’t wait for an answer. I remember feeling embarrassed and wondering if every kid in the class was talking about my dirty ears. And so began my daily obsession with cleaning of my ears with Q-tips.

That one innocent comment made in 1969 has spurred me to clean my ears every day for more than forty years. Simple statements that we make can have a powerful impact on those we associate with on a daily basis.  Perhaps you have a similar experience regarding the power of simple statements.  I am sure Nancy doesn’t know that her comment changed my personal hygiene. However,  her statement stands as a testimony that we can do much harm,  and also much good with what we say; and how we say it.

It is so much nicer to compliment than to tear another down.  Complimentary statements are just as powerful as negative ones and what we say about others to our friends can leave a lasting and permanent impression with them regarding that person.  Here are some words from N. Eldon Tanner that were published in the Ensign in March of 1973 entitled: “Nay, Speak No Ill”.

“There is a very famous painting titled “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Many who have seen this painting…have admired the appearance of straight and dynamic leadership exhibited by General Washington. The painter has skillfully caught the vision of determination and courage in the expressions of the men in Washington’s boat.

But this is what some critics have pointed out: that 12 grown men with guns and supplies could not possibly remain afloat in a rowboat of the size illustrated. If this did not sink it, certainly the three men standing up would tip it over. The 13-star flag shown in the hands of the soldier was not even in existence at the time of the Delaware crossing in 1776. The background for the river was not the Delaware at all, but the Rhine River in Germany where the painting was made.

When one is reminded of these imperfections, it is difficult to appreciate the real message. The observer sees only the defects. So it is with people. When a defect or flaw in personality, character, or appearance has once been pointed out, it is difficult to see clearly the virtues of that person.”

I hesitated to use this particular example because one of my sons told me just the other day that this painting is one of his all-time favorite. I hope that he will still see it in the same light that the painter intended. I am confident that he will appreciate it even more as an example of how we can be inspired by flawed people and their works.

All of us are paintings. Maybe some of us have dirty ears, or wear unclean clothes, or a number of other character flaws.  However, let us not focus on the flaws of others,  but rejoice in the painter, who is God our Father. We are His beautiful workmanship. While all of us, His children, have deficiencies,  let us focus on the positive and learn to develop a habit of looking for the good in others, not the bad.

As  children we were riding home from church one Sunday when the older girls started picking on the looks of a young man. My mother was listening and after hearing such talk, turned  to them and said, “Yes, but he has such nice teeth.”  My sisters were rendered speechless. My Mother always looked for the good in someone, a trait all of us should emulate!

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