Perhaps you have heard phrases such as, “under promise, over deliver” or “plan for the worst, but hope for the best”. Phrases like this are said by realists. They know unexpected things happen and therefore their goals, endpoints, or dreams don’t always have the desired outcome, so they plan upfront for a possible miscarriage of hope and expectation. This is wise in terms of business or finances, but in terms of most other areas, it is more detrimental than helpful. And admittedly, this is my default setting in relationships. After talking to many women, I believe it is for most of us; we deflect.
We meet someone and make excuses for why they shouldn’t or won’t like us or expect too much from us. In conversations, we dismiss compliments, minimize who we are, what we’re capable of, the things we have accomplished as well as successes we have earned– and on the same token we treasure those very things we hide from others. We worked hard for them. We even find our parts of our identity in them.
We undervalue our self-worth continuously—and when it comes to building friendships, it either weighs us down until we’re immobile and isolated or we timidly tip-toe our way into friendship, feeling our way around, deflecting—which, honestly tows a fine line between humbleness and pride—until we feel we are accepted and know to what level we are accepted.
The reasons we do this may vary from one woman or situation to another, but of the few women I know, we do it to beat others to their certain judgement of us. We know our weaknesses, so we point them out to others before they point them out to us or gossip about them behind our back. It’s a coping mechanism; a form of self-protection against our own insecurities, a way to control what people will think of us. It’s that whole, “if you can’t beat them, join them” anthem.
This helps no one. It belittles who God made us to be. He did not make us to be insecure, to make excuses, or even to try to win the approval of man. I know this in my head, but my actions reveal a different story.
Here’s a classic situation: I invite people over to my house. And even though I have cleaned profusely, cut and arranged fresh flowers, prepared a meal, the moment someone compliments something about my home, I make excuses for why their compliment isn’t really true. I might even beat them to the punch, if I see that they have noticed something unflattering. I point out how our house is in the remodeling stage and parts of it are unfinished, resembling the 70’s. I tell them that although I love decorating (And I do! If I did not go into teaching, I would have gone into interior design), I don’t really know what I am doing. I point out the miss-matched this and that or the…. In reality, I worked hard for that miss-matched item and I like that it’s slightly weird. I like that my house isn’t done being remodeled because I would miss dreaming and planning how I would fix up my fixer-upper.
I do this all the time. I struggle, I mean really struggle, to accept a compliment (even if I really am having a good hair day!). I have a great friend who used to call me on this each and every time I would start to deflect. She would stop me mid-sentence and adamantly say, “Just say thank you”. This was hard for me. Saying thank you implied I agreed with the compliment, which wasn’t always true and even if it was true, I feared being mistaken as prideful. Still, I knew my continual rejection made others uncomfortable. They had gone out of their way to say something nice and I rejected it, which communicates disbelief and lack of trust in that person’s words. I don’t know about you, but I want my words to be taken seriously and as truth—they are an outward expression of my character.
So, I practiced. I know this sounds silly, but I did. As they say, “Fake it until you make it”. My mouth would say, “Thank you” while my head would be swimming in doubts. I literally had to remind myself of the Psalmist’s words, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; I know that full well”. (Psalm 139:14). Admittedly, I do not, yet, know that “full well”– though my heart longs to. I want to graciously accept His compliments and live boldly and unapologetically from that sacred place. And it is sacred, not something to discount.
What has happened over the years of just saying “thank you” is I’ve learned to genuinely smile when someone sees something good in me. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have the back story or see the imperfections. What they see is good. They like it (or me). A complement is flattering and accepting. It reveals to us that we are not invisible, worthless, or discounted. We have been seen and appreciated, which is what we seek and continuously pray for year after year—sometimes through painful tears. God uses people to share His acceptance and love for us in countless ways and I am certain giving compliments is one of those ways.
The excuses we make are nothing short of toxic. It doesn’t matter if they’re based on fact or falsity. If they keep us from leaning into the truth that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, then our eyes on more on ourselves than on Christ. It is my prayer that God would seize my heart and help me to believe and live from who He says I am in Him, not in the world.
Thank You, Lord Jesus for never giving up on me; for loving me like You do; for finding me beautiful and special and delightful. Thank You for giving Yourself sacrificially on my behalf because You wanted me; saw value in me; knew me. Thank You Lord for caring for me, taking my burdens and shame. Thank You for forgiving me and wiping my slate clean—again. Thank You for your gift of eternal life with You. Thank You for loving me with an endless love.
I’m so glad He doesn’t come back to us with excuses as to why He doesn’t deserve our gratitude and praise. Can you imagine how we’d feel if He discounted our praises to Him?
Just Say Thank You