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HumankindNESS-In Defense of the Compliment

By Jennifer Richardson
Have you gifted someone with a compliment today? You look nice. You did a fabulous job on that project. This is delicious. You are beautiful, inside and out.

Websters defines compliment as an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration; beautiful gifts we all need for ourselves and for others. Sincere compliments are humble by nature and are uttered without agenda. A simple statement that honors someone else, and ultimately sends the message that other people matter. It is a practice that transfers something good from one human into another.

We use the phrase, he paid me a compliment. A genuine compliment is a small payment, an investment in something. There are multiple returns on this investment; self esteem for the receiver, and unselfishness for the giver. The happy effects of a compliment often spill over into other people who are simply near enough to feel the glow.

Sincere compliments seem to be out of fashion. The reasons are probably many. Perhaps our communication has become harsh and selfish. There hardly seems to be room for kindness between all the sarcasm and the sharp wit we use in the guise of humor.

Maybe it is connected to how we spend our time. Being complimentary requires that we focus on someone else long enough to see what is happening in their life. We are often glued to activities that move our thoughts inward rather than outward.

It is possible that we don’t authentically compliment other people because we are so consumed with negative thoughts and emotions. Compliments flow from a positive heart, and affirmative appreciation has to be cultivated on a daily basis in order to grow and bear fruit.

I have heard parents say that they don’t offer compliments to their children because this kind of praise will be a crutch and make them vain. Compliments are not to blame for conceit.  Vanity can be bred into a child by the quiet but insidious process of watching influential people in their lives judge and criticize others, giving the child a falsely inflated vision of themselves as better than the rest. This strategy pushes others down so the child can be superior by comparison.

A true compliment does not compare or use others as a benchmark. It simply tells your child there is something good about them that is noteworthy, and you have noticed, and you appreciate it. As the child is filled with appreciation, they can then appreciate rather than compare.

A compliment goes beyond the recognition of the specific thing being praised. In a grander sense, the pattern of taking time to identify the good in others, and then offering legitimate acknowledgment for it teaches much more than just a feel good moment.

The result can be an observant human being that is alive to the life and times of those round them, who is responsive to the moments when someone may need a rip in their spirit sewn up and healed. In this practice we become people who use their powers for good, who build up and do not tear down. These are the people that others seek out for wisdom, for comfort, for guidance. These are the people for whom no funeral home will ever be large enough to hold all those who will come to pay their respects for the life they lived and the lives they touched.

Practice the gift of the simple but mighty compliment.

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