All through childhood and well into my young adulthood, my mother would remind me that when receiving a compliment, “Be gracious and just say thank you. Period.” She also admonished me often not to say “You’re welcome. It was no problem” when someone says “Thank you,” to which she was likely to respond, “I know it wasn’t a problem. If I had thought it was going to be a problem, I wouldn’t have asked.”. Apparently, “you’re welcome” is a complete sentence, too. I learned that second lesson well—the first one, not so much until much later in my adult years, long after mom had passed. That’s how it often is, right? We listen to strangers better than those who love us and have our best interests at heart.

When it finally hit home that I should accept a gift or compliment (a compliment is also a gift of sorts), was when I gifted someone a piece of lemon blueberry cake. It wasn’t my best, but it was still everything you hoped of a cake. The receiver thanked me and expressed how great it tasted. My response, of course, was to immediately apologize for how it could be better. They asked, “Why do you do that? Why do you make apologies when someone compliments you?” I honestly had no recognition that it was something I did. However, as I thought about it later, I realized they were right and that I was not alone in making that error.

There are many reasons for ending “thank you” with a period, signifying, as grammar dictates, a complete sentence. Mostly, I assume, although I haven’t seen any studies, it is because we feel inadequate, or perhaps it is an act of humility. Maybe we feel this way because we are constantly criticized or judged. Women are particularly adept at deflecting compliments, although men do the same. I complimented my daughter’s boyfriend, who immediately denied it. I suspect our reactions go hand-in-hand with loving ourselves more than we don’t.

Our response to a gifted compliment may be, “You shouldn’t say that,” “You’re being silly,” “You’re only being kind,” or “I could have done better.” You get the idea.

When we deflect a compliment, we pass immediate judgment on ourselves and our worthiness. We’re also judging the gifter’s credibility and genuineness, whether we mean to or not. We’re depriving them of a moment to be kind. Perhaps when they leave your presence, they may question whether they made a mistake about the cake or think, “I won’t say anything next time.” We spoil what could have been a pleasant exchange.

We not only do this person-to-person, but we often do it with our prayers. God says, “Nice job today. ” We respond, “I know I sucked today, but if you give me another chance I’ll do better tomorrow.” God doesn’t pass judgment, and we shouldn’t pass judgment on ourselves.

There’s an art to receiving compliments graciously. Appreciate the kindness. Enjoy the moment. Say thank you and leave it at that.

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