Entering the “Thanks” Giving (and Receiving) Season
by April L. Cao
I have a friend, Maureen, who is a rock star at saying two of the most simple words in the English language. She is paid a compliment, immediately offers a smile and replies with an enthusiastic and heartfelt “thank you!” There is no lingering moment of false humility, no arguing the person out of the compliment as if undeserving of their kind words. She is gracious yet humble, confident without a trace of conceit and it took watching my friend so easily say thank you to realize that I had been going about it all wrong.
Manners are the gold standard in most households and polite, obedient children revered as the epitome of outwardly successful child rearing. But somewhere along the way, as we teach our children-in the same way we were taught-to automatically reply with please and thank you’s, we have forgotten the simple art of graciousness. We have grown into adults who are jaded by our own self criticism therefore hindering our ability to accept and acknowledge praise. In the generational efforts to raise modest women, I think, we have succumbed to a false perception of gratitude. Instead of experiencing a compliment as a blessing, we tend to retreat into a pattern of rejecting our gifts, successes and accomplishments.
I remember some time ago receiving a compliment on a piece of writing I had completed and published. It was a labor of love and a source of personal pride, but because of my own insecurity, I began to list the ways in which I believed I had failed to accurately convey my point of view. I hadn’t proofread it twenty times, my sentences were too choppy and don’t even get me started on my verb tenses. On and on I went arguing a well-intentioned (and probably very regretful friend) out of my compliment. Instead of receiving her encouragement I beat her over the head with it! Have you ever done this and then thought “what was I thinking!”? Why couldn’t I just say thank you?
Maybe because in our “everyone is a winner” society, where praise is doled out like lollipops and trophies are ordered by the dozen, we have become a bit immune to the genuine kindness of others. When it becomes second nature to say “good job!” and constructive criticism has become taboo all for the sake of positive self-esteem, it is easy to see how shallow compliments have in part led to a shallow reciprocation of praise.
As we enter into this season of thanksgiving how can we change this habit of deflecting compliments and learn to simply say “thank you”?
1. Remember in all things to praise God without ceasing! Learning to give thanks in hardship and joy can strengthen our ability to offer sincere and honest compliments to others.
2. Keep in mind that saying thank you is not just a courtesy, but an opportunity to receive and give a blessing.
3. When a friend or co-worker compliments you on a new hair style or outfit, do not be tempted to list the reasons why it doesn’t suit you! They have taken notice of a flattering change-enjoy it!
4. When you are given a performance review or evaluation, receive it with thanks, accepting it as an opportunity to reflect on a job well done or strengthen areas that can lead to advancement and personal growth.
5. If you are at a restaurant, commissary or shopping mall and someone compliments you on the behavior of your children, do not reply with “you should have seen them yesterday!” or “they’re usually not this well behaved”. Just say “thank you”! Let your children see you graciously accept a compliment on their behalf.
6. Say thank you in honor of God! Every talent and gift that you have been given is for
His good purposes and the glory of His Kingdom.
About the Author:
April Lakata Cao is a native of Northern Virginia and currently resides in Virginia Beach, Va., where she has just completed her eighth move in eleven years of marriage. April and her husband, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, have two beautiful children ages four and seven. Visit her blog, Amazing Grace, at www.intoourheart.blogspot.com.