Assuming we have no ulterior motive, such as buttering up or trying to manipulate someone, a compliment can a lift a person’s spirits. However, it can also have a negative effect.
At the risk of making you (and me!) afraid to ever say anything nice to anyone again, I’ve been pondering the subject and remembering what helped me and what did not. I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the Comments section below. Meanwhile, here’s what came to me.
A compliment can encourage.
The pastor-leader of a discussion group once asked us to tell each other something we might not be aware of otherwise. One woman looked at me and said, “You have a lovely smile.” Since my sweet-spirited dad did, it pleased me to know I might have received that from him, and so the compliment encouraged me to smile more.
When a compliment is obviously meant to be supportive, we can take that word to heart, thanking the person – and thanking God for lifting our spirits and/or guiding us in a particular direction.
A compliment can discourage.
The person giving a compliment might be appalled to know this, but a negative result can come in self-consciousness! This often happens when we compliment a person’s looks, rather than a well-chosen outfit or skin-flattering choice of colors.
Unfortunately, I did this recently when I told a friend she looked elegant. She did, but I wish I’d been more specific and told her how a particular, upswept hairstyle makes her look elegant. Then it would be her choice or decision as to whether she felt up to elegance that day!
Similarly, poets, writers, and other artistic people might wonder, “Will I ever create anything as good?” or “Will people like my next work as well?” Book reviews, positive Comments on a blog, or a simple “Like” for a post can provide the timely encouragement that person needed.
A compliment can provide an opening to praise!
Whether a compliment focuses on what we did, how we look, or what gifts and abilities we have, we can thank the person for the acknowledgement and give credit to God. For example: if someone says, “Your (poem, painting, sermon ___ fill in the blank) meant a lot to me,” we can accept that good word yet get the focus off of our self-conscious selves by praising the Lord and thanking the person for letting us know.
Hmm. I just realized that one of my favorite prayers since childhood can be applied to this discussion, which I hope you will join in the Comments below!
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer,” Psalm 19:14.
What we say (words of the mouth) and how we receive what someone else says (meditations of my heart) can find anchor in the Rock and, when needed, be redeemed by our Father God Who rescues us, even from ourselves.
©2021, Mary Harwell Sayler