After five decades of life, I have come to view a compliment as virtually meaningless.
1) I served twenty-nine years as an arts/music pastor during what well could be described as one of the most turbulent periods of change in worship methodology in church history. With increased life spans leading to the unprecedented phenomenon of multi-generational parishes, a senior adult who rode a horse and buggy to church and watched Charlie Chaplin in silent movies would sit in the same worship service with teenagers who have never known a world without the space shuttle and MTV.
Talk about a tough job.
The same people who would compliment endlessly about a patriotic service with “secular” songs such as The Star Spangled Banner would—in the span of one short week—demand my resignation after a “secular” rock song from the teenagers generation.
I soon realized that in order to survive, I should take compliments from parishioners and people at large (of all ages) with a grain of salt.
2) As a creative empathic, compliments have always been confusing to me. Here is a partial definition of an empath to illustrate: Empaths are so extremely sensitive that they will often feel what is happening to other people more so than they will feel it if it were happening to them. Because of this they will ignore their own needs. They will often find it hard to process when someone thanks them or gives them a compliment. They don’t understand gratitude because they don’t understand any other way of thinking and they are much more likely to pay someone else a compliment than to take one themselves.
3) My legalistic religious upbringing taught me to always deflect compliments to God. You know, I was trained when people would say something meaningful, that in order to protect myself from growing proud, I should say something like, “To God be the glory”, “All praise to him”, or simply point my finger skyward while humbly shaking my head no. All sorts of psychological ramifications come with this baggage.
So , maybe that’s why I love a simple “thank you.”
No matter via e-mail, voice mail, text, Twitter, snail mail or a good ole’ verbal muchas gracias—all seem to ring my bell at just the right timbre.
I can live on a thank you for days.
I try to remember this simple truth regularly, thank you’s don’t cost me a dime, but provide priceless benefits for others.
What about you?
Everyone is different.
A compliment or a thank you?
Which do you prefer?