“I don’t do well with praise.” —Chloe O’Brian in Season 8 of 24
awk-ward (ôk-wərd), adjective. How you feel when someone compliments you.
Why are compliments so difficult to receive?
Most of us, unless we’re blatantly arrogant, feel embarrassed when someone encourages us. . . .
Usually we’re battling the fact that we love being encouraged but don’t want to be proud. We wish people wouldn’t say anything, but another part of us is crying out, “More! More!” It’s the dilemma of Romans 7:21: “when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”
Here are some practices I’ve learned to help me receive encouragement (at least better than I used to):
- Thank the person for taking the time to encourage you. I don’t have to evaluate the accuracy of their encouragement. All I know is that they made a point to express gratefulness when they didn’t have to say anything.
- If the compliment is vague, ask for clarification. We’re not fishing for more praise; it’s just that it helps to know how God specifically worked in a person’s heart. You might respond, “Thanks so much! So what is it about the meeting that encouraged you?” If someone isn’t really sure what they liked, or if their second answer is just as vague (“It was just cool”), I usually say, “Great!” Not every interaction needs to be profound.
- Express gratefulness for the opportunity to serve. My most common response to encouragement is, “It’s a privilege and a joy.” Because it is. God is giving me grace to follow the example of Paul who said, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). More importantly, we’re declaring our allegiance to the Savior who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).
- Draw attention to the contributions of others. Most of the time when people encourage me, they’re unaware of the parts others played. I can increase their awareness. “I’m just grateful to be on this team; these guys practice so hard.” One of the best ways to turn awkwardness into gratefulness is to remember how God has used others in my life. And when I’m actively looking for evidences of grace in other people, I have less time to think about myself.
- Internally and intentionally “transfer the glory to God.” That’s a phrase I first learned from C. J. Mahaney, who was quoting the Puritan pastor Thomas Watson. It means acknowledging that any benefit or fruit is because of his grace, and therefore all the glory is completely and rightfully his. It’s not mine. So at some point after the meeting, possibly when you’re driving home, it’s wise to specifically give thanks to God and give him glory for all that you’ve received encouragement for.
None of this means we won’t struggle later with pride. I may put someone’s encouragement on constant replay in my mind, try to make others aware of how well I did, or exaggerate someone’s comments in a later conversation. The best thing to do then is confess my pride to God and again transfer all the glory to him.