The power of a compliment

October 15, 2014

Do you remember the old playground taunt, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me"? It's so untrue, isn't it? Bones mend much more quickly than hearts. How true that the tongue has the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21).

We all long to be loved and appreciated. A kind word, a sincere compliment, can lift our spirits and give life. It can make our day. Or even longer. Mark Twain once said he could live two months on a good compliment!

the last of the lobelia

Two things here.

We need to be life-giving in our words to others, and we also need to receive life-giving words with grace and real acceptance.

Don't shrug off a real compliment. Don't come back with a,  "oh, it's nothing." You may think you're being humble, but it really is an insult to the one giving you the compliment. They are then in the awkward position of trying to reassure you of your value. Accept it gracefully, with a smile. And then, here's the important thing: take it into your heart and allow it to sink in and encourage you. 

It is said that for every unkind and hurtful comment we get, we need at least ten compliments. Don't we tend to shrug off the compliments and only focus on the negative? So allow that life-giving word to reach your heart.

And can I interject one thing especially for my Christian sisters? Don't just say, "oh, it's all the Lord; I did nothing."  Yes, we know that our gifts come from the Father, but to always deflect praise with a false humility is wrong. The Lord is using others to encourage and love on us, and we need to receive it, instead of puffing ourselves up to look super-spiritual.  Just try a simple, "thank you so much," or, "thank you; I'm so grateful for the Lord's help."

A woman once told me I was a real Proverbs 31 woman. Ha! I almost laughed in her face. If you only knew. But later, reflecting on it, I thought, well, maybe there's something there, maybe I'm not such a hopeless case after all.

It was an encouragement and a motivator. It humbled me and made me want to try to be the person she thought me to be.

My youngest son always raves on my home cooking. Does it make me feel puffed up? No, it encourages me to continue to put my best efforts into cooking for those I love. Hmm . . . wonder if he's figured this out?!

In that vein, don't be a flatterer (no, my son is being genuine). I learned from a neighbor years ago to be on the lookout for ways to genuinely compliment each person you meet. Don't say something unless you mean it. There's something good about every person you meet. Sometimes it's easy to find; other times you have to really look. 

I like to do this with salespeople and waiters. They're working hard, and probably have to deal with more than their share of rude people. 

Once, at the grocery store, I noticed the cashier had super-long, flashy and bejeweled talons nails. I couldn't focus on anything else, and I couldn't, in all honesty, say I loved them. So I kind of blurted out, "Wow, your nails are amazing!" (They really were.) She lit up with a big smile and enthusiastically showed me the details on each nail. I saw her as a real person, not just someone with questionable taste. It was good for both of us, maybe even more so for me.

Be a life-giver to those around you. Pour genuine and kind words into their hearts. So many people are hurting and needy; so many are weighed down with anxious thoughts, with worries about health or finances or relationships. It doesn't cost anything to be a giver of life and encouragement.

An anxious heart weighs a man down,
but a kind word cheers him up. (Prov. 12:25)


  1. Oh this is amazing, Deb. Wow. It is such loving and truly wise counsel, thank you so much.

    I had to become a follower again. I lost track of how many blogs I follow that I have had bumped off my regular reading roster. Sorry if I have missed things because of this. I never want to miss your posts, they're AWESOME!

    Hugs. God bless you always!

  2. This is such a wonderful post. I try to be an a Christian, I feel that is my encourage and to pray for others. It doesn't take a lot to think of an encouraging word and it lifts us both up. AND...we can always do more! Enjoy your day! Hugs, Diane

  3. This was a lovely, inspiring post.


  4. absolutely hit the nail on the head with this post. Like you, I sometimes have trouble receiving a you said, we somewhat refuse it or shoo it away because we think we are being humble. Actually what we are doing is robbing the one giving it of a blessing! I am working on getting better at it but sometimes it's not easy...great post :)

  5. Great post, Deborah! Words are so very powerful, and we must continually be reminded to use them wisely.

    One of my favorite books is by Hal Urban. It's called "Positive Words, Powerful Results." I truly believe it to be a world-changing book---if put into practice, of course.

    Have a lovely day,

  6. Great post, quite thought provoking and really made me look at myself.

  7. Sometimes it is hard to accept a compliment and having a positive attitude towards the giver can mean a big difference.
    And, as the giver of a compliment - it can brighten someone's day (like with you and the nails) and give another a much needed lift.
    Guess I had to read it here and reflect upon this in my comments to think about these things.
    Thanks for a great post Deborah.

  8. Thanks for writing this. I struggle with receiving compliments, I'd much rather be the person complimenting someone else. But I am working on accepting compliments.
    Have a great week!

  9. Dearest Deborah,
    Lovely post and especially true for waiters and waitresses!
    It did warm me up just a little here in my hospital room which is so cold!
    Got a very swollen left hand from a cat bite in my index finger as I tried to save a chipmunk!

    1. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear you're in the hospital! Hope you heal quickly.

  10. Hi Deborah,

    It seemed like you were talking about me there for a minute, the one who cannot accept a compliment, and the older I get, the harder it seems, most likely due to a drop in confidence about some things that are connected to approaching a certain age, and not recognizing oneself in the mirror, anymore. But you're absolutely right; we should kindly respond with a sweet, 'Thank you so much', or something to that effect, and simply feel blessed. I enjoy complimenting others, for my comments are always genuine and heartfelt, and when I think about this, it is easy to understand how not accepting one's kindness can make that person feel uneasy.

    Thank you for a most thought provoking post!


  11. If more people followed your suggestions here, the world would be a softer and brighter place. Now that is a compliment for you!

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  13. Words so true! Coming off of vacation, it was the service people who I wanted to talk with most, and thank for their service. Tips, yes, a good way of saying thank you, but to actually speak with those harried and who had long days as a result of high tourism (a blessing, yes, but undoubtedly super tiring). I spoke with one young woman who was cleaning an entire floor by herself in a very large hotel, and her days were very long. A little conversation goes a long way to boost someone's morale. Thanks for the reminder, Deborah.

  14. What a great post, Deborah, and one I'm going to go back and re-read. Know wonder I love you so much!! Those were some wonderful thoughts that you shared. It is important to give and accept compliments, I so agree. xo

  15. Very wise thoughts, Deborah! It is easy to shrug off compliments and only focus on the negative. Lately I have been trying to divert my thoughts to those sweet, sweet tokens of kindness and forget all the hurtful ones. So nice to be the one to give the compliment, too. You are right, there is always something kind to say and it makes us feel so good to uplift someone else. I love how you remind us to accept compliments gracefully to honor the giver. xo Karen

  16. Wonderful post; I think I needed that! The story of you talking with the cashier reminds me of my dad. He always takes time to talk with people: the men at the meat counter at Fareway, the lady who makes sandwiches at the convenience store, and many others. I can tell it always brightens their day. Taking real interest in other peoples' lives even if you will only see them once can make a big difference!

  17. Very inspiring words and great advice....Christinke

  18. This was a beautiful and thoughtful post. You are right...we often shrug off compliments...I think women do so more than men for some reason.

  19. Dear Deborah, Such a beautiful post and so very true. You always share important topics for real life.
    I also believe in the power of a kind word. Kindness matters and it costs nothing to be nice with those that cross our path on a daily bases. Yes also important to be truthful and if there is nothing to be said, a smile goes a long way too.
    Thank you for sharing. You are an inspiration!!
    Blessings my friend.

  20. Dearest Deborah, what a post!! The way you worded and presented your thoughts really hit home and taught me a well-needed lesson. Thank you so much, sweet friend! Hugs to you!

  21. Hi Deborah,
    What words of wisdom you have shared today! So very true. I often feel embarrassed when I am complimented and I try to do the complimenting instead. Thank you for such inspirational words! Thank you for visiting me and leaving such kind words too! Take care, Karen

  22. These words are so true. Learning how to respond to a genuine compliment takes grace and thoughtfulness.

  23. Hello, This was really special, And we must learn to give and receive compliments that are life giving!
    We can see our flaws, but God accentuates the good in our lives for His Glory!
    Thanks so much! Roxy

  24. Hi Deborah, it is so true about giving and receiving compliments. I love giving compliments and seeing a smile on their face. It makes us feel good receiving and giving them! I hope you are having a good weekend.

  25. This is so beautiful. Such a simple gesture and yet with so much power. I often have a hard time receiving compliments but now that I have read your post, I have learned not to feel guilty. I always try to see the good in everyone too.

    Thank you for such a wonderful post and for visiting my blog. Have a great rest of the weekend,


  26. Such a rich post, Deborah. I will think of this often.

  27. Hi Deborah! I just want to thank you again for continually praying for Rea. She is just bouncing back from her last final chemo and bone marrow transplant and she is on her way to full recovery. Thanks again!...Christine

  28. So many wonderful truths in this post, Deborah, about the importance of using our tongue to be an encourager. I really like your encouragement to receive compliments with grace and thanksgiving instead of shrugging them off.
    Mary Alice


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