Do you remember the old playground taunt, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me"? It's so untrue, isn't it? Bones mend much more quickly than hearts. How true that the tongue has the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21).
We all long to be loved and appreciated. A kind word, a sincere compliment, can lift our spirits and give life. It can make our day. Or even longer. Mark Twain once said he could live two months on a good compliment!
|the last of the lobelia|
Two things here.
We need to be life-giving in our words to others, and we also need to receive life-giving words with grace and real acceptance.
Don't shrug off a real compliment. Don't come back with a, "oh, it's nothing." You may think you're being humble, but it really is an insult to the one giving you the compliment. They are then in the awkward position of trying to reassure you of your value. Accept it gracefully, with a smile. And then, here's the important thing: take it into your heart and allow it to sink in and encourage you.
It is said that for every unkind and hurtful comment we get, we need at least ten compliments. Don't we tend to shrug off the compliments and only focus on the negative? So allow that life-giving word to reach your heart.
And can I interject one thing especially for my Christian sisters? Don't just say, "oh, it's all the Lord; I did nothing." Yes, we know that our gifts come from the Father, but to always deflect praise with a false humility is wrong. The Lord is using others to encourage and love on us, and we need to receive it, instead of puffing ourselves up to look super-spiritual. Just try a simple, "thank you so much," or, "thank you; I'm so grateful for the Lord's help."
A woman once told me I was a real Proverbs 31 woman. Ha! I almost laughed in her face. If you only knew. But later, reflecting on it, I thought, well, maybe there's something there, maybe I'm not such a hopeless case after all.
It was an encouragement and a motivator. It humbled me and made me want to try to be the person she thought me to be.
My youngest son always raves on my home cooking. Does it make me feel puffed up? No, it encourages me to continue to put my best efforts into cooking for those I love. Hmm . . . wonder if he's figured this out?!
In that vein, don't be a flatterer (no, my son is being genuine). I learned from a neighbor years ago to be on the lookout for ways to genuinely compliment each person you meet. Don't say something unless you mean it. There's something good about every person you meet. Sometimes it's easy to find; other times you have to really look.
I like to do this with salespeople and waiters. They're working hard, and probably have to deal with more than their share of rude people.
Once, at the grocery store, I noticed the cashier had super-long, flashy and bejeweled
talons nails. I couldn't focus on anything else, and I couldn't, in all honesty, say I loved them. So I kind of blurted out, "Wow, your nails are amazing!" (They really were.) She lit up with a big smile and enthusiastically showed me the details on each nail. I saw her as a real person, not just someone with questionable taste. It was good for both of us, maybe even more so for me.
Be a life-giver to those around you. Pour genuine and kind words into their hearts. So many people are hurting and needy; so many are weighed down with anxious thoughts, with worries about health or finances or relationships. It doesn't cost anything to be a giver of life and encouragement.
An anxious heart weighs a man down,
but a kind word cheers him up. (Prov. 12:25)