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What to Do When the Compliments Don't Come

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Sometimes there just isn't anyone around to compliment you, and that can be discouraging. Erin Davis provides encouragement and advice for those who struggle with this issue.

Here's my confession—I like compliments. (As in I really, really, really like compliments).

The reality—I don't get them very often.

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two toddlers. While they do show their affection in wonderful ways (such as drooly kisses and hugs that leave macaroni smeared on my T-shirts), my little guys aren't very free with the compliments. I don't hear a lot of "Excellent job with that diaper-changing technique, Mom" or "I love the way you scraped the dried milk out of my sippy cups" or "I really liked your voice inflection the fifth time you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to me today."

The other arenas of my life are much the same. And since I already confessed my love for affirmation, I don't mind also confessing that when my praise tank doesn't get filled up, it leaves me feeling pretty bummed. You can relate, right?

So what can we do when the compliments don't come and our craving for affirmation remains? I've been searching for my own answers to those same questions lately, and here's what I've come up with.

1. Search for compliments in the Word.

This may seem like a Sunday school answer, but it is actually a practical technique that really works. God's Word is rich with words of affirmation for you. Psalm 45:11 says "The king is enthralled by your beauty." How's that for a compliment! Psalm 17:8 says you're the apple of His eye. Jeremiah 31:3 says He has loved you with an "everlasting love." Maybe it's not super-spiritual to scour Scriptures looking for compliments from God, but if you look for them you will certainly find them.

2. See your affirmation addiction for what it probably is—pride.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss once wrote about this inner struggle with refreshing honesty.

"I found myself relishing what other people said about how God had used me. I was quick to pass along complimentary letters, emails, and write-ups about my ministry to others in hopes that they would think highly of me. I loved seeing my name in print and at times would take steps to ensure that full credit was given to me. 
"As the scope of my ministry grew exponentially, so did my battle with pride and self- exaltation. And all this was taking place as I was traveling around the country delivering what had become my signature message on humility and brokenness!
"As is always the case with sin, the solution was to get my pride out ‘into the light.' I realized that I needed to humble myself before others." ("Curbing your Craving for Praise").

How did Nancy deal with the pride her need for affection led to? She had a bonfire and burned up all the letters of praise she treasured so much! I like her style. What I really like is that she took action to curb her craving for praise.

Basing our feelings on the amount of praise we receive from others is rooted in self-glorification (a.k.a. pride). By calling our craving for compliments what it really is and then taking a hard look at what the Bible says about pride, we can squelch a desire for praise that's out of control.

"God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble" (James 4:6).

3. Take note that praise addiction is a dead-end road.

Check out this tragic tale from the gospel of John:

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in [Jesus]. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God (John 12:42–43). 

The religious leaders in this story let their craving for human affirmation get the better of them, and they missed out on being with Jesus as a member of His flock. Take a moment to ask yourself this hard question, Do I love human praise more than praise from God? If you answered "yes," consider what you're giving up to keep chasing the applause of man.

4. Follow the golden rule.

Matthew 7:12 says, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

When did you last lavish someone with the kind of praise you wish others would lavish on you? I'm not suggesting you give others compliments so that they will compliment you in return. That misses the point. I am suggesting that you take the focus off yourself by recognizing that others need affirmation, too, and committing to meet that need.

Just in case you've come to the end of this entire post and your desire for praise is still nagging at you, here's a freebie. I think that the readers of this blog are among the sharpest, sweetest, most biblically grounded people I know. I'm a better Christian because of your honesty and commitment to God's truth.

Will you live today at peace with the praise of God instead of on the hunt for the praise of man?

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