We need to be passing out more compliments.
I’m not talking about dishing out insincere flattery or heaping on praise to the point that you could push someone toward a pride problem. I’m talking about everyday, run-of-the-mill compliments.
You like someone’s cool shoes? Say so. You love someone’s sense of humor? Let them know. You enjoyed and benefited from your minister’s sermon? Tell him about it.
A compliment could literally change someone’s life. A compliment changed mine.
Thirty-three years ago, a sweet elderly woman turned around from the church bench in front of where my friend and I were sitting.
“You two need to go to the Sweet Adelines,” she said. She had noticed that we both sang alto and both managed to do so in at least a halfway decent fashion. I had never heard of the a cappella singing group, but let me tell you: I’ll be thankful to that woman to my dying day.
I tracked down information about the Piney Hills Harmony Chorus, Ruston’s chapter of Sweet Adelines International, and after that first rehearsal, I never looked back. I’ve been ringing chords with my singing sisters for more than three decades, and my chorus membership is one of the joys of my life.
Maybe that’s why I turned around one time on the chorus risers and said to the bass singer behind me, “You have such a beautiful voice, so melodious and rich.” Later, she told me that no one – no one in her entire life – had ever told her anything like that. It bolstered her confidence so much that she later auditioned to join The Rich-Tones, the Sweet Adeline chorus in Richardson, Texas, a five-time international champion. Of course, my friend passed the tryout and now has multiple international medals to prove it.
What if I hadn’t turned around? Or what if the woman on the bench in front of me hadn’t turned around?
I guess not only is this a hint that we need to pass out compliments. It’s also a hint that we need to pay attention. And to listen.
I’ve recently read online articles that say Christians should hardly give compliments at all. As noted above, there’s that fear of pride being bolstered. One article, which hurts my heart to recall, said that one of the author’s college professors caught himself while praising the student’s paper and muttered something about the dangers of pride and quoted Proverbs 26:28, “A flattering mouth works ruin.”
But that’s flattery, defined as “excessive and insincere praise, given especially to further one’s own interests.” That’s not talking about a sincere compliment given with genuine appreciation of something or someone.
Examples of godly people praising each other actually abound in the Bible. Paul, for example, told the Philippians he thanked God for them every time they crossed his mind. In many of his letters, Paul lauds specific church congregations for possessing righteous traits.
Even Jesus handed out compliments. “No one has arisen greater,” he said of John the Baptizer. When Mary of Bethany washed Christ’s feet with her hair after pouring out expensive ointment, He commended her: “For she has done a beautiful thing.” To the persistent Canaanite woman who pleaded with Christ to heal her demon-possessed daughter, the Lord offered this accolade: “O, woman, great is your faith.”
Of course, it’s right and proper to acknowledge that God has blessed us with whatever we possess that someone might deem to compliment. That’s part of the not-having-pride thing. But we shouldn’t be scared of sincere compliments – being either given or received.
Christians are the light of the world. Surely Jesus said this in a spiritual sense. I think, however, we can also put that illumination idea on another level. A compliment can brighten someone’s day. Or change their life.
Surely that’s a good thing.
Sallie Rose Hollis lives in Ruston and retired from Louisiana Tech as an associate professor of journalism and the assistant director of the News Bureau. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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