After Molly’s incredible piece on the importance of unusual compliments, I’ve been thinking about what compliments look like in my daily life. I try to say something nice to everyone I encounter in a day, and I don’t mean in a “I need to check off my compliment quota for the day” way, but in a “I genuinely like X about Y person” way. You know, I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty good at giving unique compliments. I really do love people and I love that they’re different from me and I love to point out all the things I love about those people. Words of affirmation is my love language so I really get life out of expressing in words the things I appreciate about others.
However, there’s one small problem with this. I can give compliments all day, but I am absolutely dreadful at receiving compliments.
Is it just me? Or are you like this, too?
Friend: Oh, Lindsay, I love that shirt on you!
Me: Ew, really? I’ve had it for like, five years. There’s a giant stain on it. Gross.
Friend: Lindsay I love your hair today!
Me: Ugh, I slept all weird on it so I’ve been fighting with it all day.
Friend: Lindsay, you’re so fun to be around!
Me: Psh, you wouldn’t say that if you lived with me.
Somewhere along the line of my life I mistakenly began to assume that shooting down compliments was a way for me to appear humble and that gracefully accepting compliments was a way for me to look conceited and selfish.
But let’s break this down for a second. How would you feel if you were the friend in that scenario? Would you feel like I was being humble and sweet, or would you feel as though I was being completely self-absorbed by dismissing you and your opinion of me?
A year or so ago I was in a women’s bible study small group and one of the ladies brought this up. She told a story about someone who always shot down compliments from her and it made her feel so insignificant. Naturally, she got angry, and stopped complimenting this person. Before she shared her story, I had never considered what other people thought when I’d refuse compliments. In my mind, I was being humble and right, so I didn’t really need to give the subject much thought. Upon hearing this woman’s story, I stopped and thought about how I would feel if someone did the same thing to me. I realized I would feel insulted. Wronged. Ignored. I would feel as though whomever I’d complimented assumed that I had no wits about me and that my words of affirmation meant nothing to them.
She summed up her testimony and really drove the point home when she said, “Ladies are polite; ladies say thank you.”
Be polite. Say thank you.
As a woman of faith, I believe God does things in our lives each and every day to teach us and make us better. The woman in my bible study was definitely an example of that for me. But, of course, God doesn’t stop there. This morning, when I sat down to start writing this post about the importance of receiving compliments, my little Gmail tab lit up indicating a new message. It was one from my pastor. He said this:
I wanted to tell you how proud I was of you…
My skin began to crawl as I read the rest of his kind words. At the end of the email, I started to reply with something along the lines of, “Well, I’m still a big old mess and-” [backspacebackspacebackspace] “I’m nowhere near where I need to be-” [backspacebackspacebackspace] “That’s really nice of you but I’m-” [backspacebackspacebackspace]…
Then I remembered the blog post draft I had open in another Firefox tab.
The importance of receiving compliments.
My eyes filled with tears as I sheepishly, and truly humbly, typed a small and desperate, “Thank you.“