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A true prophet and a true friend are the same: not to be feared -- like lightning, like thunder -- but cherished because both a friend and prophet love you enough to want you to know the supreme truth.

They want you free (who you really are).

A friend tells you the truth, not just what you want to hear. But he (she) tells it in a way that does not seek to sting (even if you take it that way).

A friend-prophet is not harsh and malicious but firm (and persistent). Otherwise, words have no meaning.

Isn't it a strange thought, that a friend is a prophet and a prophet is a friend? Look at John the Baptist: He told the Truth ("repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand"). His Friend was Jesus. He didn't say "relax, don't worry about it. You are doing fantastic. You're perfect. Everything is awesome."


But neither did he excite folks into fear (or discouragement, or depression).

Too often, we tell people what they want to hear, instead of what is true. We focus on their egos instead of their souls. We don't wait to see what will germinate ("by their fruits").

This is easy. We carry little burden doing it. Less energy is spent. And it's important to encourage people. In fact, it's crucial. We should seek (and pray) to make people feel good. It's a standard of interpersonal evaluation in eternity.

But not at the expense of truth.

Don't laugh if something is not funny.

And don't tell a partial truth (aka: a lie) to make someone feel better.

A lie is a lie. There are no white ones. False prophets come in sheep's clothing.

Did Jesus contrive platitudes? Did He make sinners feel like they weren't sinning? Did He look the other way when He saw the moneychangers? No.

But neither did He use harsh ways when it wasn't necessary. He was precisely a friend and a prophet. He weighed His tough love with love that had tenderness.

In our time we have a special crisis with how many avoid the supreme truth with their young. Everything's "good job." Great. Terrific, Johnny. Awesome!

"I have an honor roll student."

And to a degree, this is excellent.

Years back, children weren't encouraged -- or rewarded -- enough. And they do need support (especially in these times). They require affirmation.

But do we go to the other extreme?

Are we in a time of narcissism? Are we hooked into "overpraise"? Does it really benefit anyone to make them feel "special" and above others when really they are not and even if they were should not feel superior?

Is it excessive when a small private school (54 graduates) has an awards ceremony that lasts an hour and a half (really, catering also to the school's ego).

A recent video of a brilliant high school teacher in Massachusetts who gave the commencement address went viral on Youtube because he addressed just this: how not very special too many who are made to seen above all others actually are.

He pointed out that while we lavish praise on valedictorians, and luminaries, and sports "heroes," we fail to place it in this perspective:

Each year there are 37,000 high school valedictorians, 37,000 class presidents (because there are that many high schools), and 340,000 swaggering athletes. There are hundreds of thousands of student stars.

It is good to compliment them.

It's bad to make them seem like they have conquered the world.

And it's outright wrong to train their eyes in a (vanity) mirror.

When we do that, we cause harm; we set them on the road to self-deception (and arrogance).

How many quarterbacks who starred in high school are in the NFL? How many great college actors made Broadway? How many "most likely to succeed" students actually exceeded everyone else (one we know was tossed from college for cheating)?

When we spend so much time on so few, we discourage other kids who have tried hard but are not quite at the same level of development (translation: have not yet learned how to take a rote test).

Do we forget about those who may be more spiritual than eidetic, more intuitive than standardized, more transcendental than "logical" (or worldly)?

Do we test to see how much they care about the world and others and why they want to do what they want to do?

For it is there -- in motive, in intention -- that there is, or is not, something special. We are all equal in the eyes of God. We are special only when we are helping others.

Climb a mountain to see the world -- to feel God -- not so that the world sees you. The best thing you can do for your self is to be selfless.

We have to balance encouragement -- important in bolstering a kid's confidence -- with rewards that are actually for too little effort or for the wrong intention. Do we reward humility? Do we reward unselfishness? Do we reward self-effacement? Do we reward charity as much as reward accomplishments that were aimed at winning an award at graduation?

Be careful; seek to make others feel great; always; kids or adults; but do so in a way that advances them -- and doesn't violate the (loving) truth.

Be true to others, especially the young, and you are true to yourself.

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