It's amazing what a well meaning compliment can do to us. It's nice to be appreciated, to have our hard work recognized, to hear that something we have done has been well received. Years ago, when I considered myself a poet, I loved the feed back I would get from my writing. A bad review would put me in the depths of depression for days but a good critique would give me fuel for writing for a few weeks. I think most of us appreciate compliments but compliments can also work against us.
Compliments have a way of puffing us up, perhaps beyond the reality of our ability. What is appreciated by one person may be frowned on by another. Where one person thinks we are great, another person might consider us "okay". My mom and dad would consider anything I do fantastic whereas a stranger would not have the emotional attachment and may be a little more harsh. In this sense, compliments may distort the reality of our ability. God is practical when it comes to self-evaluation:
"For by the grace given me I say to ever one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." (Romans 12:3)
If we do not try to keep everything in perspective pride can creep in and pride is a powerful destructive force in a life based on the character of Jesus. As the Word of God says, "Pride comes before a fall". When compliments are permitted to move us beyond our ability then we will undoubtedly face a fall when reality comes crashing in. Compliments are intended to encourage us, not puff us up.
The apostle Paul had a simple way of dealing with this. I realize he was often dealing with difficult situations and many people would not have liked Paul, but thousands of others would have appreciated what he did for them. He also accomplished a lot and sacrificed everything. With all that Paul was and did I am sure pride must have come knocking on his door more than once. But Paul dealt with it by looking at everything with the same set of glasses:
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)
We do not share the same values and perspective with the world so compliments should all be re-directed to Jesus Christ. Everything we do and say should be intended to bring glory to Jesus, not us. We can express our thankfulness for people's appreciation of what we do but we turn it into praise to Jesus for giving us that ability and directing us by his wisdom. Compliments should not take up residence in us but need to be transformed into praise and worship. This is how we maintain a proper perspective of priorities in our life.
We have nothing to boast about as all good things come from above. We can boast about our incredible God, his wonderful plan and the perfection of the cross but compared to that our accomplishments seem pretty insignificant. Everything we have is from the Lord. Everything we are able to do is from the Lord. The success we have is the blessing of the Lord. So where is there room for us to boast? There is none. Praise the Lord of my soul; praise the wonders of his love, mercy and grace! May Jesus remain the center of all things for us.