Monday, January 26, 2004

Do you know what I find interesting? Its the idea that compliments create expectation. I see this all the time working in a girl's freshman dorm. Girls are always complementing each other on how they look. Its the first thing out of their mouths when they see each other. "oh, you look so cute today." or "I love those boots" or "your hair looks great." They think they are helping that girl's self-esteem and image issues by paying her a complement. They think that a compliment about physical appearance is the same as encouragement. I think they are wrong. These compliments lead to expectation. Inside the girl feels good about receiving a compliment. But later on, she senses that nagging feeling of expectation. Will I get compliments tomorrow? Will they think I am dressed like a bum if I don't wear new clothes, cute clothes, stylish clothes? You can especially see this occur in people who are attractive and have been complimented on their appearance their whole lives. It becomes a source of self-worth. But this source is deceiving as it takes more than it gives. And inevitably it is the beautiful people in the world that end up the most image conscious. It is the beautiful people that have such high demands on themselves to maintain that beauty. There is an expectation that they will look good. And so they must. They can't disappoint their public.

This is not just true for image or appearance but for anything. The more we hear compliments, and the more we put self-worth in those parts of our lives which get the compliments, the more demand and expectation there is. It is not so much the compliment as how we receive it. We humans usually hear the compliment all wrong. Instead of hearing the words, "You look cute today." We twist the words up in our heads and end up hearing, "you are cute." What is the difference? It is the "being" that is the difference. That actual compliment speaks to our physical appearance. What we often hear speaks to our very "being", who we are. We, in a sense, become the compliments we receive. "That was a good sermon!" is what is actually said. We hear, "You are a good preacher" and further, "I expect you to always be good." To fall short of "becoming" the compliment is to disappoint. To disappoint is to fail. Now some of you reading are thinking, "What?" But that is only because you are not honest with yourself. We don't hear the truth in our heads because its too real and too devastating. We want to believe that we can take compliments well and that it doesn't place expectation on us. But we often cannot do this. Our frail minds twist a nice word of compliment into an expectation of our very "being."

True encouragement seems to move beyond superficial compliments anyway. True encouragement speaks to the person's character I think. In the end, if greater expectation is placed on our character than that is good. God has expectation of our character. So if people call me kind (which no one does or ever will most likely) and that word of encouragement challenges me to embody kindness, than so be it. May my kindness glorify my Father in heaven.


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