I remember vividly, our mother scolding us, “Don’t bash yourselves like that! When people compliment you – you say ‘thank you.’ When you put yourselves down, how is everyone else supposed to feel when they haven’t been singing as long?” We were getting older, and had to snap out of it. When we would come offstage and people would compliment us, we were so use to saying, “Ha! That SUCKED.”
Compliments… why is it so hard to just say “thank you”? On a broader spectrum, I could ask: why is the negative so potent to us, while the positive & uplifting is so natural to reject? This is a struggle that I see everywhere. Because more often than hearing “thank you,” I see shrugs and hear stubborn refusals.
When I was a teenager, I developed a mantra for accepting compliments: “Take it. Bring it in. Let it happen.” There it is – looming in the air. Someone has said something nice about you. How many of us snap back, “No – YOU,” or “Ahhh… stop,” or any other awkward response besides the one appropriate response…? So instead of running away from the compliment, or immediately deflecting it back to the giver, or clumsily shaking hands with it and setting it off to the side, I learned to say, “Hey! Just take it. Bring it in. And let it happen.” Most of us are still that 5-year-old needing an adult to prompt us, “Now, what do you say, honey? ...What do you say???”
There are 1,000 reasons why many of us feel weird accepting a compliment. Perhaps in our minds, we know that they’re wrong; “I’m not smart, but you’re kind to say that.” “That was my worst performance.” “Are you kidding? I’m gross today.”
Another reason could be that maybe – we never learn how. I had a friend tell me once that he was never complimented or encouraged as a child. This made it hard for him to receive compliments because they were so foreign. He told me that instead of receiving them, he had buriers in place to immediately deflect them and stop them from coming.
Most commonly, though, I’ll bet we don’t want to say “thank you,” because we are sure, “they don’t mean it.” They feel obligated to say it. “She’s my mother; she has to love me.” Or – “they just feel bad for me.” “They’re patronizing me.” Because how could they mean it? How could what they’re saying be true?
Imagine taking the time to wrap a beautiful gift for a friend of yours. This gift is well thought out and perfectly tailored to your friend whom you love and you cannot wait for them to open it. Now imagine they take the box from you, say “how sweet of you,” and then set it off to the side. Or better yet, "Oh, NO! This gift was not meant for me!" How mad would you be? “Aren’t you going to open it?! That gift is for you! I want you to have it!!!”
I swear that this is what it’s like when people refuse to receive an honest and sincere compliment. Does it not make you totally sad when you’re trying to encourage someone in earnest and they cannot take it in?
Furthermore, when you refuse a compliment given to you, you are insulting the person paying the compliment by either saying, "you are insincere," or "you are wrong." Even to imply that what they say about you is "open to interpretation" is a rejection of their beautiful perception of you - one that they are trying to share.
This being so, it isn’t just for our own sake that we should say “thank you.” It is also for the sake of others. This is true for more reasons than one. For I also promise you this: those that cannot receive compliments experience a paralleled difficulty in giving them out. The two are not unrelated; in fact they are inherently linked. Simply because; you cannot give out what you have not received. Am I right? Your friend could not pass your gift along to the next person if they did not take it from you first. How could we be expected to give out encouragement when we never received it for ourselves in the first place?
It's not just about you.
When we only accept and receive the negative, we only project and instill the negative.
What happens when we call ourselves “fat”? Whoever in the room that is your same size or bigger will feel insulted and insecure. What happens when you judge yourself out loud? It spills out onto everyone else. It is foolish to think that our insecure blurting affects only ourselves.
Therefore, we all have to get better at saying “thank you.” Not just because it encourages us – but also because it empowers us to encourage others.
By saying “thank you,” we are not signing a contract that says “I agree wholeheartedly and inarguably with all of the above and will interpret it as universal truth.” We are simply saying, “I accept.” I accept that you mean what you say. I accept that this is your perception of me – a perception that represents many others that have thought well of me regarding this particular idea. I accept and appreciate your well-meant gift.
It’s true that we cannot always discern what is obligatory from what is sincere. And sometimes when people compliment us, we will wholeheartedly disagree. But we should say “thank you” anyway, as a good practice, because it’s the only appropriate answer. And because it’s just plain rude to refuse kind words. That person speaking to you – they want you to have the gift.
They see something beautiful in you that perhaps you cannot see. And they want you to know that they see it. Suggesting that they are "wrong" or that their positivity is "arguable" is a tragic waste of their beautiful reality that they are trying to invite you into. So just take it. Bring it in. Let it happen. Try your very best to look them in the eye, accept their sweet reality, and SAY "THANK YOU."
And soon... it will become easier to believe the positive things.
Before too long, you will be able to fully receive the baptizing words, as they are meant to be received. And I’ll guarantee that as you are filled with more positive ideas about yourself, the encouragement will naturally spill out of you and into the lives of those around you. That’s the way it works.
So instead of blushing, brashly disagreeing, arguing, kicking, screaming, or just running away like a little freak…
Smile. And SAY "THANK YOU."
For everyone's sake.