How to receive “warm” words

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“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.”  (Proverbs 27:21, New Living Translation)

As a singer, preacher, entertainer, and encourager (among other things), I have had a very public life and ministry for almost 40 years.  During that time, people have said a lot of wonderful things to me and about me.  (They’ve also said some not-so-wonderful things, but that is a topic for another day).

To be honest, I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the compliments.  They are, of course, nice to hear, but knowing how to respond has been a lifelong lesson for me.  Over 30 years ago, a good friend looked me directly in the eye and said, “You need to learn how to take a compliment.”  I’ve been working on it ever since.

So, here are some thoughts on how to respond to “warm” complimentary words of praise, encouragement, affirmation, even flattery.

First, some things to avoid:

  • Arrogance “I was good, wasn’t I!” Ok, that response is probably not a risk for most people. Where this most often shows up is failure to acknowledge the compliment.  Arrogance may not be intended, but we may give the impression that we think we are too good to speak to someone who made the effort to bring the compliment.
  • Faux Humility“Oh, it was nothing, really.” We don’t believe it was nothing, do we? If it really was nothing, why did we bother to do it? Seriously! Do we really have enough spare time on our hands to spend it doing nothing and doing nothing publicly? It was something to the person bringing the compliment.
  • Spiritualized Faux Humility“It wasn’t me, it was all God.” Here’s the truth: God could have used anyone He wanted.  He doesn’t need us.  Here’s another truth: In this circumstance, God chose to use US and He has gifted and equipped us for this moment. Do we really want to deny the work of His grace in us—and through us in the life of another person—just so we can look spiritual?
  • Self-abasement – I’m not talking about self-deprecating humor. I’m talking about a true belief that you are without any worth to God and His kingdom purposes; that just how unworthy you are is going to be found out at any moment. If you really believe that about yourself, please spend some time with a counselor who can guide you through a process of understanding who you are in Christ.

So, how should we respond?  I don’t have an easy answer for that, but here’s a good starting place: A simple “thank you.”

“Thank you for your kind words.  I am so encouraged by you.  It was a blessing for me to be here and I’m so glad you were blessed as well.”

The person has been acknowledged. The compliment, received. The blessing, returned. And God has been glorified in our attitude as well as our words.

The testing continues in what we do next.

Question: What other suggestions do you have for responding to “warm” words of affirmation?

Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your perspective.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, argumentative, off-topic, or just plain unhelpful.