We love to receive compliments. We relish the idea of someone having a high enough opinion about us that they would either say something or write something that commends us for our actions. “Words of affirmation” is a primary love language for many of us. But as Christians, I think we struggle a little bit with how to handle compliments when they are given to us.
Towards the end of his letter, the author of Hebrews clues us in on the importance of how we handle compliments and praise – and the direction they need to go:
Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is the fruit of lips that confess His name.
The Greek word used here for praise means to “speak of the excellence of someone or something”. I think sometimes when we Christians are praised by someone else, we’re not sure how to receive it. This readily apparent when we are given a compliment from another Christian about doing good to other people – we end up saying something like “I give God all the praise and glory”. But those eight words tend to sound a little hollow, especially with the way most of us quickly say them with a dismissive tone.
However, compliments we receive in the rest of life aren’t handled that way. When someone tells us that we are good at fixing things, or good at driving, or a hard worker, we are often quick to point out “You know, my dad taught me that when I was young.” or “Thank you, I had a boss once who showed me how.”. Statements like that almost always come with a story of us struggling to learn and how grateful we are for the teachers we’ve had.
So now we see what it means to sacrifice our praise. We’re intentionally putting off the idea that we are “self-made women” or “self-made men”, and placing another person’s recognition ahead of ours – because of their unseen contribution is the true cause of the good result others see in us.
So when complimented for doing something good, instead of quickly mumbling “I give God all the praise and glory.”, let’s use our words to actually do it. Rather than saying an eight word phrase that no one outside of Christianity understands (and I’m not convinced all of us Christians really understand that phrase either), we should use our words to speak highly of the One who is making us into something worth complimenting.
Try something like this instead:
“God taught me that when I read <insert Scripture reference or Bible story>”.
“God taught me that when He helped me through a tough time in my life. I learned I could trust Him because of how He showed up.”
“God has always shown love and kindness to me, even when I don’t deserve it. I’m just trying to do the same thing.”
Rather than a blank stare, you’ll probably have an opportunity to share more with the person complimenting you.