Have you ever given someone a compliment that was genuine and from the heart only to hear them say “Aw, no. You don’t have to say that.” or “No, I’m not that smart/beautiful/helpful/etc.” For me, the most difficult thing about being in that situation is that I love building others up. If I say “You have an awesome gift for makeup artistry” and the person responds “No, I suck.” all I hear them say to me is “You’re a liar and you don’t know what you’re talking about.” My first reaction isn’t to think “Wow, that person is so humble.”
I’ve had a few friends and acquaintances who believed that humility was shunning any compliments and words of encouragement. There is a difference between being okay if someone doesn’t think the world of you versus feeling like you have to put off every kind positive gesture in order to keep your pride at bay. How should you deal with this?
It’s important that you don’t allow your character to change for the worse in order to have a relationship with someone. Having your love for someone be brushed aside is hurtful, and feeling that you can’t be yourself makes your relationship a bit unbalanced. If you feel that you can’t support someone in a healthy way, then I would advise bringing the matter up to this person if they are someone you value. I’ve done that and one of two things happened.
With the first person, I approached her out of curiosity asking if she even realized that she would often disregard any compliments or gratitude I had to give her. I gave her the benefit of the doubt that maybe this was a behavior she didn’t notice, or maybe no one had ever told her there was something wrong with it. She responded saying that it was simply a big part of her culture because being humble was a valuable trait to them. She made it very clear that this was something she didn’t want to change about her character.
If there’s anything I know about God, it’s that He doesn’t condone false humility. If there’s another thing I know about God, it’s that He is quick to correct us, but also quick to tell us how wonderful and loved we are. How He is delighted by us. We are to do the same thing with pure intentions.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! (Psalm 139:18)
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13)
Being truly humble means putting others above yourself and living a life abounding in good spiritual fruit and wisdom. Being truly humble means that you can accept a compliment without it going to your head. You can also give a genuine compliment without an undertone of jealousy because you are secure in your identity in Christ.
My second story is about someone else who–unfortunately–had the same character of false humility and shunned compliments, but when I brought it up to her–fortunately–she had a eagerness to learn and accept the love God has for her through willing vessels. She still cringes when she says “Thank you”, but she understands that it doesn’t make her prideful to accept that she’s beautiful, talented, kind-hearted, etc.
Do you have a hard time receiving uplifting words? If someone compliments your haircut, do you say “Oh, no. I’m actually having a bad hair day.” If someone says you did a great job cooking a meal for them, do you say “Oh, I didn’t do anything. It wasn’t my favorite meal, and I overcooked the vegetables.” The best thing you can do for yourself is allow love into your life. If you’re struggling with this, pray for God’s help in being able to just say “Thank You.” It may take a while to get used to it, but you can and will build a new habit in due time. One day you’ll even start to believe those amazing compliments!
If you know someone like this, please pray for them. A common theme I’ve witnessed is that people who have a hard time accepting love usually come from a background of intense criticism that has shattered their self-esteem. By agreeing with the verbal abuse they lived through, it’s become a part of their identity and most of them don’t even know that this has them bound up. Pray for their freedom in Christ to cover all areas, and be prepared if you end up hearing about their painful past and need to walk them through breakthrough and recovery. You may be the first person who has cared enough to ask, and who’s willing to be a shoulder to cry on as they talk about their troubling childhood or abusive past relationships.
I pray you receive the healing you need, and that you are led in wisdom in your walk with The Lord and with those God has placed in your life.
Kytia L’amour is a writer, performer, and photographer spreading God’s love in all art forms. Reaching out to young women and sharing her story is what keeps her heart beating for Christ.
Kytia lives in sunny Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.