“You have such beautiful hair.”

I dip my head and laugh softly. “Oh, this is my rainy-day ‘do.”

The memory of her wide smile and genuine compliment rang in my ears for the rest of the day. She meant it. I knew she did. But I struggled to believe it because, instead of cascading curls, I saw frizzy strands seeking to escape the bobby pins. Instead of beauty, I saw barely controlled chaos. Instead of accepting her admiration and honest kindness, I doubted it.

When I realized what I was doing, I didn’t like it. For if I doubted her, wasn’t I calling her a liar?

It was then that I realized this was so much bigger than a hairstyle.

I started monitoring my conversations, observing them like an outsider even as I participated in them. Every time someone complimented me on my hair or  my teeth or my grades, too often I heard the words slip past my lips: “Oh, this is…”

Oh, this is the cold weather releasing my hair from humidity. Oh, this is the result of years of braces. Oh, this is on account of a lot of studying...  It wasn’t even that the reasons were wrong. It’s true that my curls behave a lot better in December than in June. It’s true that I had braces — twice. It’s true that I’m a perfectionist and want each of my assignments to be the best they can be. That is all true.

But the attitude I was displaying when someone complimented me wasn’t true or good or gracious.

The truth is, it’s a lot easier to give grace than to accept it. When I see someone new at church, I can tell them I love their scarf and really mean it (especially when that scarf is pink and frilly and feminine and I want one). When I step into the classroom and a friend has gotten a haircut, I can tell them I like it since it frames their face just so.

When that stranger visiting my church for the first time compliments me on my shoes, though, I smile and defer my white high heels to the status of old and worn out (they are the ones I wore at my high school graduation, after all). When that classmate surprises me by saying, “Thanks. And you always look nice,” I laugh and shake my head.

It's a lot easier to give grace than to accept it...

No, no, no. That is so wrong. After a week or two, the realization set in that I could compliment others all day long, but I had a serious problem with receiving compliments. I’m striving to do better in that area. After all, if all I do is seek to be gracious and never receive the gift of others being gracious to me, eventually I’m going to run out of grace.

Because God is the ultimate Giver of grace and if I’m not willing to receive grace from others, how can I expect to open myself up to receive it from Him?

Last Sunday, during those few moments of fellowship before the service began, a sweet lady leaned over the pew between us. “I meant to tell you this last week, but I didn’t get the chance. I loved how you had your hair. Up and just…lovely.”

Oh, that was…

“Thank you,” I say and smile.

16 Comments

  1. Oh, I agree! Accepting compliments is hard to do, though I’m getting better at accepting them. I often find it hardest when I’m complimented on an outfit which is made up from secondhand clothes and hand-me-downs… unless the person doing the complimenting is the person who gave them to me, in which case, you can turn the compliment into a thank-you. Funny how we’re “allowed” to say and think bad stuff about ourselves but find it hard to think and say nice stuff about ourselves.

    And I’ve got curly hair, too!

  2. Avatar Grandma D. says:

    You are too cool, Little One.

    I have had this problem myself … a lot. Thanks for reminding me that a gracious, “Thank You,” is all I need to say. Maybe, “Isn’t God good” would pass the glory on the Lord. What do you think?

  3. I love this! I am the same way. I can give compliments all day long, but it is often hard for me to accept a compliment. The part that really hits me is how can I accept grace from God, if I cannot accept it from others? Thank you for posting this!

    1. Thank you for commenting, Annabell! πŸ™‚ (I love your name.)

  4. I’m learning to accept “grace” as well- not dismiss compliments and honesty of others. It’s God’s way of reminding us that He cares, and He cares through others. I used to think it was wrong to accept compliments, it was selfish. But then I realized people were genuinely interested in encouraging me. They wanted to show me Jesus. I’m reading a great book called “Grace for the Good Girl” that goes right along with your post. It’s okay to stop trying to give out grace all the time. Just open your arms and accept what Jesus has done for you and what others are showing you!

    1. Lauralea, I love these two lines of yours: “It’s God’s way of reminding us that He cares, and He cares through others…But then I realized people were genuinely interested in encouraging me.”

      Exactly.

      And I have to get my hands on that book soon. πŸ™‚ It’s on my to-read list.

  5. Avatar Anne Mateer says:

    Oh, yes! I still struggle with this, although being aware of my propensity to brush of someone’s compliment of anything that has to do with me helps some. As does reflecting the praise to the Lord instead of trying to receive it for myself (like when someone compliments my children).

    1. Of course, Anne! I hadn’t thought of that–redirecting the praise to the Lord. Although it’s funny, but I can take compliments on, say, a big thing like my writing and believe those more easily than I do about a simple hairdo. Go figure. Something I’m working on. πŸ™‚

  6. Loved it Rachelle! I’ve had this problem too, sometimes in different ways as well – pride sneaks in.. *ahem*… or I really am not so complimentary at times, and I’m learning to recieve grace too. Wow though, that bit about calling others a lier stopped me in my tracks! I think like most things it’s a balancing act between pride/acceptance; complimenting others/being jealous. πŸ™‚

    {Oh, and that’s so weird that my hair does better in the summer and yours is better in the winter…even though we both have curly hair? Cool! Lol}

    Love in Christ sweet “sis”! πŸ™‚
    ~Rachel~

    1. Didn’t it, though?! The “liar” line stopped *me* in *my* tracks when I realized…

      {So jealous! Do you think it has anything to do with the different states in which we live? ::grin::}

  7. Great-thought-provoking article, Rachelle! I’ve also struggled with receiving compliments, and grace from others.

  8. Thanks for this lovely article, Rachelle. I’m really challenged by the idea of not just being a joyful giver, but also a gracious receiver. I guess this applies to compliments also.

  9. I love this because it’s so true. I do the same thing. And it has become worse now that I am heavy because I don’t like how I look now, can someone else really like how I look? I have a friend who is so good at compliments. I responded recently with, “Really?!” and then I felt bad. Thank you is all we need to say, so why is it so hard? πŸ™‚ Thanks for reminding me to watch my responses.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Mel. It *is* so hard! Shall we work on it together? πŸ™‚

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