Sitting in front of the television as Hollywood was handing out its annual Oscars, I wondered something.
Who decides who steps to the microphone to acknowledge and receive these coveted awards?
When a movie’s name is called as the winner of “best picture” or some other category in which a number of people have collaborated, who decides which member of that crowd stands, walks to the front, accepts the kiss from Penelope Cruz, and addresses the billion people who are tuned in?
Do they work this out in advance? Is it spontaneous? Do people get their feelings hurt when the wrong person steps up and takes credit?
Michael Curtiz directed “Casablanca,” the incredible movie which took home several Oscars from the 1944 prom. He was named best director and the movie best picture of the year. The film was done by Warner Brothers.
There were three Warner Brothers–Albert, Harry, and Jack. It seems to be the universal assessment that Jack was the rascal in the bunch. Once Jack talked his brothers into selling the studio to a Boston firm, then the next day repurchased it so it would belong exclusively to himself. The rest of the family never forgave and never forgot.
An executive who worked on “Casablanca”–I’ve forgotten his name–tells what happened at the awards ceremony when “Casablanca” was announced as best picture of the year. “I was rising to my feet when I noticed Jack Warner already on his way to the front. He accepted the Oscar like he had had anything to do with this movie. It was my movie. I’m the one who made ‘Casablanca’ happen!”
A generation later, the man still had not forgotten the offense or forgiven Jack Warner.
A line attributed to Ronald Reagan says, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit.” (Other people, including Walt Disney, also get credit for saying that.)
It’s a great quote.
And it’s almost true.
But not entirely. It matters a great deal who gets the credit.
Anyone doubting that should sit in the audience and watch someone else take credit for his hard work. It’s the very definition of pain and frustration.
When the boss promotes your colleague for the work you did, it hurts to the core of your soul.
Give public praise to the wrong person for a job well done and you will find out in a heartbeat that who gets the credit matters a great deal.
Few things demoralize a team like the wrong person getting an award for the work they did.
Give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7).
For those of us who merely watch movies, the credits at the conclusion of a picture seem endless and meaningless. But to those who make the films, the credits are their lifeline. They count on their names being seen by executives planning future movies. “Let’s get the guy who did the makeup on that movie.” Or the costumes or lighting or editing or sound.
It matters who gets the credit if the leader singles out one or two when many people were equally responsible for the job. Ask those who worked with Dr. Jonas Salk on developing the Polio vaccine. And yet, his name is the only one attached to the miracle vaccination.
It matters who gets the credit if the leader names some members of the team and forgets others. (Pastors are notorious for this. The minister suddenly decides to express appreciation to his staff and begins naming names. Invariably–it doesn’t matter how large the church is, either–he will leave someone out. It must come with the call into the ministry, because every preacher does it! A smart pastor will have the list in front of him when he starts calling names.)
It matters who gets the credit if it was not deserved. The other workers see and notice and care. Something dies within them, something vital to the next project.
It matters who gets the credit if it was given just because the person is a squeaky wheel, and this was done to placate him. What the leader is now doing is rewarding griping. Hereafter, he’s sure to get a bigger crop since that is the weed he’s fertilizing.
It matters who gets the credit if the project leader acts as though he did it all by himself/herself.
Anyone who thinks “who gets the credit doesn’t matter” is not living in the real world.
Lawmakers want their names on legislation so voters will know they were responsible. After all, they’ll be running for re-election soon.
Athletes enjoy seeing their names and photos in the newspaper or on television so they stand a chance of playing at the next level. To be even mentioned as a contender for the Heisman Trophy is a football player’s dream. Golfers invited to play at Augusta know they have arrived.
Writers have their bylines.
Authors want their names on their books, and the bigger the better.
The rest of us have our blogs.
Managers, pastors, owners and other kinds of bosses tend to run to extremes in the matter of giving credit and showing appreciation.
Some can never get the words out of their mouths: “You did a great job.” Their people are starving for a positive word.
On the other hand, some are so lavish in their constant praise that any honor from them is meaningless; they are guilty of praise-inflation.
We pastors have a perverse streak in us. We teach our people that they are not working for “the praise of men,” as Scripture puts it somewhere. Such impure motives robs service of its reward.
And yet, even we preachers love to be singled out for a job well done. Oh, the Sunday plaudits at the sanctuary doors do not turn our heads. But let the local newspaper call attention in an editorial to something we have done well and you would think we had won the Oscar. The nearest university, the military base, the chamber of commerce, some local entity outside your immediate congregation, tosses you accolades for community leadership and you will find out in a heartbeat just how much you value receiving credit. You are thrilled. And well you should be.
If you deserved it, they did well in honoring you.
Now, take that plaque and drop it into a box in the garage. That’s where it belongs. (Well, okay, keep it on your bookcase for a week or two. Enjoy it a few days, then retire it to the garage.)
My brother Ron says, “Flattery is like perfume–it smells good, but if you swallow it, it’ll make you sick.”
The two most important pieces of counsel I can think of, both for myself and every shepherd of the Lord’s flocks, are these:
1) Don’t need recognition.
Do not want or expect or labor for appreciation or awards or recognition of any kind. That way, you’ll never be disappointed. But then, once in a while, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
2) Instead, give recognition.
Be faithful in appreciating others around you. Paul told church people in his day, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (I Timothy 5:17).
Clearly, the Lord is not against us receiving honor and appreciation in this life. In fact, Scripture promises that we will receive honor when we stand before Him some day. (See I Peter 1:7, among other places.)
At the same time, ultimately all honor and glory belong to the Lord. The final words of the Lord’s prayer remind us that “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” There’s nothing contradictory about this. When someone honors my child, I’m blessed. I do not see that as stealing praise that should have been mine.
Now, on the other hand, if my child swells with pride on receiving praise, if she hogs all the credit and feels no debt to anyone else, if he becomes boastful, then Dad is not happy with his offspring.
One of the oddest sagas in Scripture concerns the death of King Herod Agrippa the First. God put this man on His hit list when Agrippa beheaded the Apostle James and then arrested Simon Peter. Not long after, Agrippa traveled to the Tyre and Sidon area and spoke to a vast, adoring crowd. Wanting to win Agrippa’s support, the people began to chant, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Herod swelled with pride, his ego finally receiving the worship he felt he deserved.
No one was prepared for what happened next.
“Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12)
If the Lord was still doing that today, there would be a massive run on caskets before the week ended.
I’m betting that someone in your life could use some appreciating today. The last thing they need is a little golden statuette to decorate their mantelpiece. Most would prefer a few good words, a few dollars more, or a few days off. A handwritten note is good. A promotion even. And after you have praised them personally, tell others. That way, when the word gets back to them, they’ll know it was sincere.
Go ahead. Sure, it might spoil them, but that’s their problem. Take the chance.