A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.
~ Victor Hugo
It’s predictable: In Hallmark movies when two dating people are dressed up to go out, the man says, “You are beautiful,” and the woman replies, “You look good yourself,” or words to that effect. People in love and friends are quick to compliment each other. They notice and verbally acknowledge a physical trait (“Your new hairdo is very becoming,” “I like that suit,” “I love the way you laugh”); a skill (“You are so good in math,” “You really have a talent for drawing”); an action (“That was kind of you to offer her your seat” ); or a quality (“You have a great sense of humor”). An honest compliment makes the receiver happy. It exerts a stronger and sweeter impact when it is paid in the presence of other people.
A sincere compliment not only engenders joy in the person being praised but in the one who bestows it. As C. S. Lewis observed, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”
A compliment is like saying, “I admire this positive feature you have, and I love you for it.” The compliment boosts the recipient’s self-esteem and encourages him or her to continue what was praised. Most important, a compliment, like a thoughtful gift, fosters warm feelings for the one who gave it.
Yes, God Praises You!
Jesus was not stingy with compliments. On first meeting Nathaniel, he declared, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47). When the centurion professed his belief that Jesus could heal his servant from afar by merely speaking, Jesus said of him, “In no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matthew 8:10). He told the overanxious Martha, who was bustling about, that her sister Mary, who was seated at his feet and listening to him, had “chosen the better part” (Luke 10:42). And he said to the tenacious Canaanite mother beseeching him to cure her daughter, “Woman, great is your faith!” (Matthew 15:28).
One day Jesus appeared to St. Thomas Aquinas and praised him, saying, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What would you desire as a reward?” Wisely Thomas gave the answer expected of someone in love with God, “Nothing but you, Lord.”
According to Scripture, God gives praise. St. John criticized those who do not confess their faith in Jesus because they preferred praise from people rather than from God. (John 12:42–43). God also extols those who abide by his law. (Romans 2:26–29). You can look forward to the time when the Lord comes because “then each one will receive commendation from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Perhaps God compliments you during prayer when deep in your heart you hear words like, “Well done, good and faithful servant” and “I’m proud of you for holding firm against that temptation.” God may be virtually paying you a compliment when you pick up a book, not necessarily Scripture, and read a sentence of glowing praise.
At times God may speak through people who affirm you. A friend of mine was elated because after she confessed her sins, the priest commented, “That was a very good confession.” (She didn’t know he said that to most penitents!) One day someone emailed me that a PowerPoint presentation I had given was excellent and beautifully done, the best she’d heard on the topic. I interpreted her praise as God patting me on the back and saying, “Good work, Kathleen.”
Finally, C. S. Lewis identified a divine compliment that is mystifying at first glance. He named suffering “the intolerable compliment.” What does this mean?
Lewis explained that God loves you in “the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense” and designed a glorious destiny for you. But because God wants you to become the ideal you, he allows suffering and pain, trials, and tribulations to shape and perfect you. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, “Whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.”
The above thoughts are lifted from a chapter in my book A Love Affair with God: Twelve Traits.
Today consider complimenting as many people as you can! That would be a good Lenten practice.
• When has a compliment from God via a person motivated you to excel in something?
• What reasons would God have for praising you?