I’m a quirky girl. I don’t accept compliments well. Although I long to hear them, I squirm under the words. They somehow make me uncomfortable, so I usually deflect them. I could psychoanalyze this for weeks, but the fact remains that this is what I do.
I have one friend who truly loves to give compliments. He just likes to make people feel good. Life has taught him that a missed opportunity may never return, so he freely shares the gift of his feelings.
These two positions do not intersect well. For a time, our conversations resembled an eternal badminton match, each of us batting the birdie back to the other to avoid having it land. He lobbed kind words to me; I volleyed them back. We could keep this up for hours even though neither of us felt good about it.
We’ve since landed on a solution of sorts. I have agreed to accept, without protest or commentary, one compliment from him per day. After that, I’m free to parry and thrust, but he wisely refrains from engagement once he has landed his initial riposte.
It occurred to me today that this situation reminds me of an essay I cut from a magazine years ago. Although I intended to pass it along to someone else, I still have it somewhere, never dreaming the advice was really meant for me. The essay was about the importance of receiving gifts. We focus so much on what to give that we often lose sight of the importance of receiving just as graciously. Some people are natural givers; they show their appreciation through gifting–whether the gift is a material object, an action, or precious words. By refusing to accept that gift, we are depriving that person of the joy of giving.
I happen to be a gifter myself. I love to give freely, even spontaneously. I derive a lot of pleasure from delighting others. Sometimes, though, I have to remember that the greatest gift I can give is to accept the one someone offers to me. Receive graciously.