A compliment is defined as a polite expression of praise or admiration. Typically we love taking the opportunity to give someone else a compliment and to encourage them, but often have a hard time receiving one ourselves. Why is this?
Have you ever noticed that when someone is truly giving you a compliment, you look down or look away from them while they are talking to you? How about when you cut someone off mid-compliment (if that’s a word) to start saying “no no no…ok…thank you?” What about when you compliment a child and they hide behind their parents because they are embarrassed?
There seems to be something in all of us that has a hard time receiving a compliment.
Before humanity sinned for the first time through Adam and Eve, we did not know what shame was. In fact, they were even naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25). It wasn’t until the very first sin that shame entered the picture. Immediately afterwards, they covered themselves and even hid from God, they were ashamed (Genesis 3:8-11). I believe the reason we have a hard time with a compliment is because of sin.
Here are 3 different ways we respond to receiving a compliment from someone:
We Feel We’re Not Worthy
“No, no, no…you don’t have to say that….oh c’mon…..you’re too nice…..ok ok I’ll take it.” Does that sound familiar? When we feel we’re unworthy, we typically make it so much harder for the person to give us a compliment and stretch it out to the point of finally giving in and saying thank you. Not only can this be dangerous because we could be offending the person, but we are offending God at the same time.
Imagine this, when you give someone a compliment, and they respond in a way where you must not mean it’s true…what do you do? You tell the person it is true and that they need to receive it. You have to convince someone along the way when you’re just trying to encourage them.
If God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and had His only Son die for us (John 3:16), then I would say that He thinks we are worthy. Not because of anything we have done, but because of what Christ has done on our behalf. So when someone gives you a compliment and you think you’re unworthy, remember how God sees you through Christ and say thank you.
We Respond With False Humility
This response can be extremely dangerous because it involves us responding with humility when deep down, we’re actually filled with pride. We put on a show and act humble, but our hearts are far from it. We’re more concerned with how we look on the outside instead of the inside during these moments. We’re really no different than the Pharisees when this happens (Matthew 23:25-26).
We might even give God the credit in the disguise of humility. For example, someone may give us a compliment and we immediately cut them off saying, “It’s all because of God.” Now, I’m not saying giving God all the glory is bad…we should be doing that as followers of Christ. I’m simply speaking to those moments of when we might be too quick to say God’s name when we don’t really mean it. At the end of the day, God knows our hearts and what’s behind what we do, so the best thing to do is to pray and ask God to reveal our true motives.
We Think We Deserve It
An alternative approach to being ashamed when receiving a compliment could be the flat out opposite…pride. Our pride tends to seek out compliments while we go from conversation to conversation even trying to fish it out of someone so we can feel better about ourselves.
So maybe when we’ve done good work on a project, took time to serve someone, or maybe even complimented someone ourselves, we feel like we deserve something. We want commendations on the project we did. We want the person we served to put us up on a pedestal. We want a compliment right back at us if we dished one out.
I think this response is one of the hardest ones to think about because most of us wouldn’t just come right out and say we respond this way, but if we were to really think about it, what would our hearts say? Where’s our true motive?
The Cross destroys pride. It’s when we come before the cross, we realize and remember that there’s nothing we can ever do. It’s always about what Jesus has done. Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). He is our example of humility. Let’s humble ourselves and take the place of a servant while loving others instead of seeking out our own gain through a compliment.
When it comes to being ashamed or feeling like we are not worthy, the same points apply with how we respond to the Gospel. God has given us the free gift that is in Christ and what Jesus did for us on the Cross. All we have to do is receive it. There’s nothing we can do to earn it. We are worthy to God because of Christ. We can be unashamed because we who follow Jesus are called children of God.
I’d encourage those who haven’t yet decided to trust in Jesus to consider the Gospel. You’ll keep trying to do something in order to make yourself right with God…but the point is you can’t do anything. Jesus is a free gift.
For those who are already followers of Christ, I’d urge you to consider the Gospel as well. Think of the Gospel as you start your day to remind yourself of your new identity in Christ. To remind yourself that you’re still a sinner in need of Jesus. And to remind yourself that today, you are a child of God and He sees you worthy because of His Son.
The next time someone gives you a compliment, receive it well, be encouraged, and honor God and the person by saying thank you.