I learned a new Hawaiian word at our annual employee appreciation dinner: ho’omaika’i, which means “congratulations.” Ho’omaika’i is the name of our annual gathering where we recognize and celebrate our employees.
And what a celebration it was! Great food, music, and decorations! Who could have imagined that the Cannon Activities Center—which after all is only a big gym—could look so festive?
It was a night of rejoicing. I like what the apostle Paul taught about rejoicing: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Rom. 12:15). To rejoice together is good for the soul, of both individuals and institutions.
Sometimes, however, it seems that we are better at weeping with others than rejoicing for them. We readily bring casseroles of love to “comfort those who stand in need of comfort,” but sometimes privately suck sour pickles of envy when good things happen to others. One of the most frequently violated of the 10 Commandments may be the last: “Thou shalt not covet.”
Envy is bitter spiritual poison, a bane spread by Satan himself, who hates it when others are happy and wants all men to be miserable as he is. He is the original sibling rival and author of such envy, which led to the first murder and has been the source of so much evil and unhappiness ever since.
Envy is particularly poisonous in a family, and difficult to avoid. I know. I come from a family of 13 children. This means that you had only a 1 in 13 chance that it would be your birthday. Life in a big family presents many opportunities to covet and envy. Hence, my father drummed into us the phrase: “learn to rejoice in the successes of others.”
And we did, mostly. At Christmas, we all celebrated as each child opened his or her present. And we learn to exult when other siblings received an award or honor. My parents tried to create a family culture that minimized self-pity and petty jealousies, which sometimes tear families apart. They taught us to “rejoice with them that do rejoice.” This is what I hope for our BYU-Hawaii 'ohana and what I felt at our Ho’omaika’i, which rang with praise.
In a book about the psalms, C. S. Lewis observes that “all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. . . . The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistress, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside. . . . the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least. . . . praise almost seems like inner health made audible.”
So may we learn to “rejoice with them that do rejoice,” to congratulate others on their accomplishments, and to praise what is praiseworthy. Yes, we need to hold each other accountable to high standards of excellence. Yes there is a place for constructive criticism. But more often we should seek opportunities to give specific compliments. Praise is sunlight to the soul. People as well as plants flourish in the light of love. So let us indulge often in ho’omaika’i. This is good for the spiritual health of our 'ohana and of our own souls.