Recognition

Showing recognition for the good work that others do is the best way possible of perpetuation that good work. It not only offers encouragement to the one who do it, but moreover it amplifies it outward and spurs on others to emulate this good example. Recognition should not be confined to extreme cases of bravery or distinction, but is appropriate even for unremarkable good work.

When reading the biblical account of the construction of the tabernacle one is struck by the multitude of occasions that the Bible report the Israelites carried out the required tasks. Now, one could understand that if the Israelites rebelled or failed to comply that this would be noteworthy but why continuously mention that which was only to be expected?

The Bible sets a clear example of showing recognition. Not just the great craftsmen and women received recognition, but even the ordinary people are noted favourably as having contributed each in their own way. Indeed, the great Talmudist Rabbi Shimon ben Aderet declared that it is a mitzvah (commandment) to publicise those who do a mitzvah.

Self-image plays an overriding role in how we choose to behave. However, identity is fluid and unstable; our self-perception continuously changes. Our sense-of-self adjusts according to events and circumstances. At times, for example, we feel confident, at others we feel useless. When another person recognises you as intelligent, competent, etc. it helps to anchor that identity. When others frame you as dull or inept it helps to establish a corresponding negative self-perception. Other people's opinion of ourselves is a crucial factor in how we come to view ourselves. The more a positive impression is reinforced, the more consolidated it becomes within our psyche.

Psychologists have long acknowledged the crucial importance of positive reinforcement. When good behaviour is rewarded it is reinforced. Moreover, when others acknowledge our good qualities, it generates further similar acts and qualities. All this feeds into our self-image as a 'good' person, valued and endorsed by others and therefore justified in thinking of ourselves in positive terms. When a customer compliments a shop assistant (nowadays recognised by the name 'sales consultant') for being helpful, this encourages the assistant to continue this rewarding behaviour.

Rewarding it is, for it provides us with valuable self-esteem and the many benefits thereof. When a child discovers that academic success leads to acclaim and status, the feelings of empowerment are so great that it drives the student to pursue the repeat of those life-enhancing sensations. The most effective form of reinforcement is simple recognition.

At the inauguration of the Tabrernacle, the Bible reports that the leader of each of the twelve tribes brought a series of gifts. In turn, the gifts that each leader brought are listed. The only problem is that each leader brought the identical set of gifts, yet the each gift is mention in turn. The great Biblical commentator Nachmanides offers a valuable insight: The Bible wanted to accord to each leader full recognition. Now, we can imagine that if recognition was important for the leaders, all the more so it is important to acknowledge the contribution of an ordinary person.