how to take a compliment with grace – #tellhisstory
I was still new in my faith, and that morning, I sat like a firework in the front pew. My heart was eager, ignitable.
Our church had a guest speaker, and I hung on every word, as if I were hearing the gospel for the first time. His fiery words were like a match on my spiritual fuse.
After the service ended, I weaved through the crowds to tell the speaker how his words had moved me.
I had barely uttered the words, “thank you,” when he began to vigorously shake his head at me.
“You shouldn’t be thanking me,” he said, jabbing his index finger heavenward. “You should be thanking God.”
It felt like a rebuke. I walked away embarrassed—and a lot less firework-ish.
For a long time, that encounter with a respected Christian leader shaped my thinking on how Christians should handle affirmation from others. I brushed off praise for my accomplishments in the workplace, and I rarely knew what to say when people praised my work on the church worship committee.
I became allergic to compliments.
I know a lot of Christians who feel the same way. They are worried that if they accept praise, they are stealing God’s glory and his spotlight. But like me, they agree that it feels awkward—if not unkind—to wave off praise and point to heaven, as if to say, “Don’t thank me; thank God.”
To be sure, the Apostle Paul wrote to the people of Corinth: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
But that doesn’t mean we have to duck from kind words. We aren’t stealing God’s glory if we offer a simple “thank you” when someone compliments our performance at the office, our frosted cookies at the bake sale, or our song at the worship service. Our lives exist inside of Christ, and Christ exists inside of us. What comes out in his name is a product of what God designed us to do.
True humility doesn’t mean we wave off affirmation. God put gifts at work inside of us. True humility is genuine “thanks,” delivered with grace.
Today, in your work, remember that you are free to shine for Jesus. Because of Jesus. Your life as a faithful, working Christian is a “boast in the Lord.” All glory goes to your Maker because he’s the author of every good endeavor. When someone praises you for the gifts that God has graciously given to you, a great response includes a smile and two simple words: “Thank you.”
How to Take a Compliment1. Simply Say Thanks: Your first reaction may be to deflect. “It was nothing.” “Anyone could have done it.” But instead of deflecting, offer a simple “Thank you!” It shows that you appreciate the thoughtfulness of the person offering kind words toward you.
2. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due: Often, the work done was a team effort, such as a project at work. If that’s the case, try something like: “Thank you! I was glad to be a part of the project. And I’ll be sure to pass on your kind words to Kendra and Annie, who helped put the project together.”
3. Pay it Forward: So often, people withhold compliments because they assume that the other person knows how much they are appreciated. Today, let’s go out of our way to tell someone they’ve done a stellar job! How? Send a card. Shoot off a text. Write a short Amazon review for that new author who just released her book. (I remember how much that meant to me!)
4. Thank God for The Gifts He Has Given You: Our family knows a pediatric heart surgeon whose work requires precision with his hands. So, every morning, that surgeon looks at his hands and prays this prayer: “Thank you, God, for giving me these hands so I can make a difference today.”
What gifts has God given you that give him glory? Do you feel like you’re stealing God’s praise if you say “thank you” when offered praise for those gifts? Can you identify Christians in your life who graciously accept praise, without stealing glory from God?
Dear Lord, in your grace, you have given each of us different gifts to do things well for your glory. Help us to remember that because you live within us, our use of those gifts automatically brings you glory. Help us to remember that we don’t have to perform spiritual acrobatics to “boast in the Lord.” We pray this in your name and for your glory. Amen.
Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Linda Perkins. With the recent flooding in Houston, Linda’s words about the floods that come in our lives are especially relevant and encouraging. Find Linda here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer
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Thanks for this great advice. As I’ve been speaking somewhat more publicly lately, I’ve found it awkward when people come up after. I love how you frame this tough topic and give permission to simply say, “Thank you.” Blesssings, liz
Great practical ideas, Jennifer! Too often when we hem and haw and decline the grace offered we end up calling even more attention to ourselves.
Another wonderful post, Jennifer. If we are operating in obedience to God’s call on our life and using the talent/gift He has given us, thank yous will come, because we will have touched someone’s life as the Lord desires. If I get a compliment, I always say *thank you* and, depending on what they say, I add *It’s all the Lord.* Because it is! And the glory belongs to Him. Love your precious heart, Jennifer! ❤
Wow, thank you for featuring me, Jennifer! I love your blog and am honored. Stay dry! 🙂
Ouch! This is a tender topic with me. I agree with everything you say, but I find that I’m way too slow to affirm other people (maybe because I’ve experienced a few finger-jabbing brush offs in the past). As a teacher, I’ve learned to ‘praise the product, encourage the child’ (Harry Wong came up with that one, I believe). I try to do the same with those who are shining brightly for God’s glroy.
I do know some people that accept praise graciously and I love being around to soak in the simple “thank you” that sounds genuine when coming from them. I have learned over the years how to say “thank you” when someone recognizes something I have done but it doesn’t always feel natural. I guess I am still learning. Thank you for your words that teach us how to simply say “thank you” today.
Thank you, Jennifer. I needed to be reminded of this. It’s easier for me to pass out compliments than to receive them, but I’m learning to accept compliments more graciously. To say “Thank you,” instead of “Aw, it was nothing!” Blessings and hugs to you!
Amen…graceful in the face of praise. And, if our work points to Him, folks tend to already know that the glory is His. Thanking others for their obedience to produce the work of the Spirit is a part of communal christianity…we’re all in this thing together…for His glory. Thanks for sharing, and for hosting. ((grace upon grace))
Thank you for putting your powers of expression to work in the interest of de-awkward-izing compliments. I should be over this by now . . . time to go back and re-read your great tips (and maybe practice!)
I feel like this is right up there with the whole ‘God places a calling on our life to __________ and we follow through with it and then so as to appear humble, tuck it somewhere in the shadows saying “well, I don’t like to toot my own horn…” meanwhile, who’s going to know about it if you don’t promote it!? No one expects us to be obnoxious, but we can celebrate with grace what He’s called us to do… 🙂 Thankful for you, Jen, love these words!
Oh, yes. I’ve been reflecting and writing about a time in my journey when I was dependent upon others to supply our basic needs. It was a very humbling, breaking, and learning time. One of the biggest lessons – God taught me how to be a gracious receiver. Hello, humility. But, also, hello Grace. :-). Thank you!
I love giving compliments. But I’ll admit I’m not always good at receiving them for myself. Great post. I needed this reminder.
I may have been in the same service, extending compliments to the same preacher, receiving the same reproof…or maybe it’s a lesson that many people need to learn. “How to take a compliment.” I have learned to graciously say, “Thank you.” And, if I can tell they are waiting for more words? I say, “It’s a gift from my Father.” xo
Still working on it Jennifer. It’s harder to accept a compliment that’s more personal like, ‘you have a nice smile’.
I started playing pipe organ in high school and my dad taught me the importance of graciously accepting a compliment. Then in college other organ students would say things similar to the speaker you mentioned. In all honesty, knowing them it never felt genuine. I had to work through my thinking on this years ago, but I completely agree with you . . . a simple thank you, give credit for a team effort, be generous with compliments, and thank God. Great post on a very practical subject. Thanks Jennifer!
Wow, Jennifer! This hits right to the core. I always had a hard time accepting compliments and really giving them as well. I think my hesitation was always about sincerity. Did I really think it was great? Also choosing the right words to say without coming across weird. But the more I began to know God, the more He instilled in me the need for encouragement—both for myself and others. Now, it’s not so hard! I think like anything else, you just have to practice giving and receiving compliments to get comfortable with it! Thank you for addressing this today. It was so very helpful!!
I used to struggle so much with this!! I still do a little. I know this post is going to speak so strongly to someone today.
Thank you for sharing this. It is sad how even those with good intentions can sometimes shape others who are new in the faith and quiet their fireworks. I had a similar experience regarding worship expression. This is such great reminder to respond and reach out to each other with grace and thanks! I’ll be pinning your beautiful reminder!
I love this post. I remember hearing a story of a very talented woman who received many compliments. She said she would take each one graciously, as if it were a rose, simply saying thank-you to the giver. And then at the end of the day, she would offer that bouquet of “roses” back to the Lord. I thought that was so beautiful. Right in line with your thoughtful words. Thank-you.
Jennifer, I love your heart. Thanks for giving us permission to accept grace. I think we are just programmed to be hard on ourselves.
I used to have trouble knowing what to say when someone complimented me on my piano playing in church. I guess I was afraid I would take credit for what God did. But it was actually my husband who said that all I needed to do was to say, “Thank you.” It’s not stealing God’s glory. On the contrary it is acknowledging the gift He has given you. I love your list of how to take a compliment and agree wholeheartedly. It reminded me of this post I wrote in January. http://gaylwright.blogspot.com/2016/01/a-girl-her-piano-and-god.html
I love this post! I see this as a real problem in the church: both not knowing how to thank without making someone uncomfortable and accepting the thanks graciously. I’m currently organizing an evening in our church to recognize and thank those who serve our little congregation on a regular basis. I kinda feel like I’m walking a tightrope to get the right atmosphere that won’t make people uncomfortable, but I think it’s so needed! Thank you for sharing!
When someone compliments me on my writing, a gift for which I thank God daily, I simply say, “Thank you! Glad you enjoyed reading my books (or blog).” I know my writing is serving His purpose.
Thanks, Jennifer, for reminding us that a simple thank you is all we need to say.
amen. glad you recovered. (:
Such practical advice on handling praise with a right spirit!
Jennifer, I just came across this beautiful statement by Corrie ten Boom. She said this about when she received a compliment, “I take each remark as if it were a flower. At the end of each day, I lift up the bouquet of flowers I have gathered throughout the day and say, ‘Here you are, Lord, it is all Yours.’” She was such a beautiful soul!
It really is so darn hard to accept compliments for fear of stealing God’s glory! Thank you for this, Jennifer. A very timely post for me 🙂
Yes! Running and writing and motherhood! I feel guilty taking compliments on all of those things…because I believe I am a product of prayer and grace…lots of grace! I’m incredibly self-conscious! And constantly having to check my humility meter when I achieve milestones within my passions in life. To God be ALL the glory. I, myself, am a hot mess without Him.
You are so right, Jennifer: To accept compliments graciously is to appreciate the thoughtfulness of the person offering the kind words. Your example of the well-known speaker who took the fireworks of joy right out of you, demonstrates clearly the blessing we rob of our encouragers if we spurn their compliments. Also, love that quote of Corrie ten Boom that Lynn Mosher shared below. What a privilege to turn the compliments we receive into a bouquet for our Lord!
Oh, I’m sorry that speaker said those words to you, but I’m glad you have better words for us. I agree we can say “thanks” with grace and point back to God 🙂