The Importance and Proper Use of Words: “I’m proud of you” vs. “I’m pleased with you”

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The blessed man in Psalm 1 “is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season” (v. 3a). Spring for us means Juggle Jam season, followed by much motivation to achieve records at every level, yielding a harvest of all kinds of fruit throughout May each year. With the applause of JJ19 still echoing in our ears and hearts, I’ll compare two kinds of accolades (i.e., fruits) and why I avoid one in favor of the other.

As with some of my other linguistic convictions, the following preference isn’t an indictment on others’ choices. But for me, I avoid the phrase “I’m proud of you.” First, it’s not a sentiment I see in Scripture (every form of “pride” in a concordance is almost always negative); second, I’m not sure what it means.

Regarding my second objection, I realize that for an authority figure (parent, coach, teacher, peer-leader, etc.) to express pride in an individual likely means a satisfaction in knowing from where a student has come in achieving any given feat. A younger person may have overcome a broken bone, a broken heart, or a learning disability to conquer a performance or task. I understand that “pride” could describe my emotion when I get teary any time a group dance move is pulled off, a big laugh is heard, or a dropless routine is performed. But to describe that as my pride may be claiming too much credit.

The word I strongly prefer to “proud” is “pleased.” The related word, “pleasure,” is a much broader description of my emotion toward a person who has accomplished something, and it avoids presumption on my part that I had much if anything directly to do with said milestone. Even God the Father didn’t say He was “proud of” Jesus at His baptism or Transfiguration. “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). That’s a good Model to mirror.

So I say to the Jugheads: Well done this year and in JJ19! I’m pleased with you immeasurably; you bring me joy as someone who (by God’s grace) has had any part in your development. I’m inspired as you overcome, grow (including your names!), and reach beyond what you thought possible. Keep seeking pure, true pleasures this summer and beyond.