Accepting Compliments Gracefully – Internally and Externally

We were in the middle of the grocery store.  The elderly lady in her motorized shopping cart rode right up next to my husband and me.  I recognized her from my county, but her name totally escaped my mind.
I have been wanting to tell you,” she said, “how much I enjoy reading your articles in the newspaper. Whenever I see your name, I read the whole thing. Just love your writing.”
I stammered out a weak thank you.  Smiling, I told her I enjoyed my job as a feature writer and the opportunity to meet lots of people and learn new things.
We chatted briefly a little longer, and then parted ways.
The next day a church member told me she had seen a nurse I used to work with at the health department. 
She said you were the best boss she ever had. Thought you would enjoy hearing that.”
Wow, two unexpected compliments. Why did they make me feel so uncomfortable, instead of joyful?
To be honest I thought, “Oh, no something bad is going to happen now.”
Why can’t I just breath in the fresh air of nice words and bask in its pleasure for a moment? Why do I always think I am unworthy of these simple gestures of kindness?
Publically I responded the “correct” way.  I thanked the giver verbally and with my smile. I accepted the compliments externally with good manners.
Yet later I wrestled with why did the two incidents bother me so? Internally the two compliments sat undigested in my stomach like a waist-expanding, fat-laden heavy meal.
I asked God for some insight into this reaction in my morning prayers today.  I know deep in my heart I want HIM to have the glory. Yet when He sends me this type of gracious gift – I refuse to accept it?  Who in the right mind would refuse a gift from God?  I must be crazy.
Why are we so uncomfortable with legitimate compliments? Probably because there are so few on them (now that is sad, isn’t it?). Maybe because we have been hurt in the past by false compliments or compliments used to get something. Maybe the compliment stirs up a fear of success and now I have to live up to that expectation. Is it a learned habit of not trusting others or leaning towards a low self esteem?
I can wallow in the whys, but with God in my morning prayers I finally let the compliments seep into my soul. Lord, thank you for these two spirit-lifting surprises.
Mark Twain wrote: “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”  Notice he didn’t say dwell on them, brag about them, or refuse them. He let them digest to build his inner strength and nourishment.
Compliments are like butterflies. They land on your hand or on the flower petal briefly; enjoy that moment, then let them fly off to someplace else. I think from now on, I will receive a compliment with an open hand and appreciate its refreshing surprise briefly, then let it fly back to God.
I am working on the internal side of accepting compliment gracefully.  How do you handle compliments internally?
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  • Julie Gillies

    In the 8th grade I stood in my school’s busy hall speaking with my math teacher. Someone walked by and gave me a compliment, and I rolled my eyes and mumbled something like, “Yeah, sure.”

    Mr. Swain looked me in the eye and said, “You need to learn how to take a compliment.”

    My throat got all lumpy, but I continued listening to him.

    “Just smile and say thank you.” I really took his words to heart.

    Years later I’ve learned to balance it out somewhat. I accept the compliment outwardly with a gracious smile and a thank you, accept it in my heart from God as encouragement, but give it all right back to the Lord. It’s ALWAYS because of HIM that I receive the compliment in the first place.

    Good post, Jeanie!

  • Jean Wise

    Thank you for all your nice comments – I thought others may feel the same way. Two of you used the word – squirm – great way to describe the feeling.
    Thanks to those of you who tweeted about this post too. I appreciate it.
    Like Kristen said, take lots of retraining – to quiet those internal voices.

  • Karen

    Jeanie, I’m like you. I think part of it is, not wanting to be prideful, so I must act humble. Get it, ACT humble. (You either are or aren’t) Great post.

  • Kaye

    Hi there, I popped over from Tweet Me Tuesday to discover an interesting article and site of interest to the Baby Boomers Generation caring for elderly parents as well as often helping with their grandchildren. The book you have listed, Daily Comfort for Caregivers, sounds very interesting as well :)

    I tweeted the article and also enjoyed peeking at some other posts including the one on Thomas.

    Thanks for an interesting visit! :)

  • Graceful

    I know what you mean, Jean. I squirm uncomfortably when someone offers a compliment, especially, for some reason, when it’s about my writing. But I think accepting compliments gracefully — both outwardly and inwardly — is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. Your prayer to God was the right approach! He helped you see the good in the words you received.

    Love that Mark Twain quote, too.

  • Kristen

    Wow! Powerful words! I loved this post! I learned long ago that accepting a compliment meant I was capable of doing something-whatever that happened to be. I later learned that if you didn’t give anyone a reason to compliment you-no one expected anything of you. I’ve spent several years trying to re-train my thinking…with some success. God’s willing I just have to completely give it up to him and trust him. I’m the stubborn one-as always! ;-)

  • Melinda

    I am the exact same way, Jeanie! I like the positive feedback, but it makes me squirm inside at the same time. I think it’s a mix of unworthiness (if you only knew all my junk, I usually think) and the pressure to live up to high expectations.

    I usually do what you do … smile, say thank you. But I’ve been trying to gain encouragement from that feedback, without letting it make me prideful or dwell on it too much.

    Wonderful post!