Beauty of Compliments

Beauty of Compliments
Written Spring of 2006

I heard on Oprah recently that if you want to improve your marriage, a good way is to tell your partner three things you appreciate about him or her every day.  This counselor said that he and his wife give each other three compliments, big or small, each night before they go to sleep. It could be as little as “I appreciated the way you cleared up the dishes tonight” or “I liked the color blue that you wore today.” This made me wonder how many other relationships could be improved if we focused more on the positive rather than the negative. Who knows, maybe even my relationship with my two teenage boys could improve with compliments.

I know that traditionally Mennonites have been more reticent and perhaps felt like complimenting others encouraged false pride, but I’m not sure that is biblically-based. In fact, it almost seems like Philippians 4:8 encourages such a positive, affirmative outlook on ourselves and others, when it says ” Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” It’s just so much easier to think about negative characteristics of ourselves and others, isn’t it?

I think we all could use more compliments. Sincere compliments are preferable, but after some thought I realized that I may appreciate a compliment from my supervisor at work even if it wasn’t sincere. (I really have no objection to delusional thinking!) Hank Fox, a humorous freelance writer says, “The really weird thing about compliments is that they cost the giver not one red cent.  And yet they can be gold to the person getting them.  You’d think more people would make the very slight effort it takes to do it.  And yet it seems most people don’t.”

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I am fighting a daily battle of gratitude versus resentment. Henri Nouwen suggests, “Healing happens often by leading people to gratitude, for the world is full of resentment.” I believe that God encourages us by His love to continue to see the beauty and goodness in others…and perhaps three compliments a day is a good way to start!

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