How do I honor God when I am complimented on my outward appearance and style?
answered by: mikaela Phillips | Australia
I remember going through an awkward stage in learning to receive compliments and having this same question! I felt like it was unspiritual to acknowledge my outward appearance and so I didn’t know what to do. Do I somehow bring God into it? Do I say, “No I don’t”? Do I shrug it off? Do I turn it back on them by saying, “Oh no, I’m not as beautiful as you!”? I tried most of these but they just never felt right. Sometimes we respond in one of those ways because we don’t believe what the person is saying to be true of us, we don’t know how to accept compliments, or other times we want to sound more spiritual and less self-absorbed, so we respond in false humility. All of these reasons are self-focused. And there is no way we can bless others and bring God glory when our eyes are fixed on ourselves.
As I was working through this in my own life, I began to observe how other people responded to me when I complimented them. I would pay attention to not only their response, but also how their response made me feel. Some people reacted awkwardly, and so then I felt awkward. Then others threw the compliment back at me saying, “Oh no, your style is way cuter than mine,” and I felt like they didn’t even allow time for my compliment to bless them. I was surprised to discover that the people who responded with the most feminine grace were those who graciously accepted my compliment. I realized it wasn’t in what they said that glorified Christ (anyone can accept a compliment) — but rather the life they lived behind their response that made all the difference.
As I have thought about what it means to receive compliments graciously, I have realized that the ability to do so comes down to two heart motives: having a heart of worship internally and a heart to serve others externally.
A Heart of Worship
A heart of worship begins long before we receive a compliment — it begins in why we live the way we do. Whether our response glorifies God or not all boils down to one thing: Do we have a heart of worship?
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Prov. 31:30).
We see multiple times in the Bible that a heart that fears the Lord and reflects His nature should be our focus above physical beauty. (See 1 Peter 3:3-4 and Proverbs 31:30.) Yet enjoying style in a healthy and God-glorifying way isn’t wrong, and it’s okay to be blessed and encouraged by a compliment. However, our hearts and minds should be guarded against allowing it to flatter and distract us from Christ.
A Heart to Serve
When receiving a compliment, we must remember that it’s not actually about us — it’s about serving the person who is complimenting us. As it says in Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.” It’s easy to think that the best way to apply this verse is by throwing the compliment back at them, but I have found that the best way to serve the person complimenting me is to simply accept it.
When I hear the word “compliment,” I imagine a little box tied with a ribbon. To me, a compliment is like a gift that someone has specially wrapped up in their words for the purpose of blessing me.
For example, at Christmastime there are gifts that we love, and then there are gifts like ugly socks. Regardless of our personal feelings, we know the correct response — it’s to put the other person’s feelings before our personal tastes. We accept their gift with a big smile, hug, and thank you, then spend the day parading around in our ugly socks because we love the person!
I see receiving compliments the same way. Rather than thinking of ourselves, we receive compliments with a heart to serve and bless the person giving us the compliment. For me, this typically means listening to the compliment, receiving it, and letting it bless and encourage me. Then, what naturally overflows is a smile and a gracious thank you — which blesses the giver in return.
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When we truly live with a heart of worship for our Lord and a heart of love for those around us, we will be able to receive compliments in a way that brings glory to God and blesses others with feminine grace.