Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On Compliments

 EeeBee etsy shop
The girl behind the counter at the Post Office today was a natural beauty, the kind that looks photo-ready when she rolls out of bed after being sick for two days. She didn't believe this. I know because she did all sorts of things to herself that people do when they feel they wouldn't otherwise be noticed. My first thought was, "I should tell her she's pretty." Then my social filter kicked in, so I didn't. But the people who have eleven piercings on and around their face are often the very ones who need to hear a sincere compliment. I commented on her slender hands {this is a lot more awkward to type than I imagined} and got a hurried, flustered thank you. No eye contact. Not another word until good-bye, when I walked out wondering about compliments.

Was it my delivery? Or her acceptance?

Compliments come in every package imaginable. Insincere, sincere, inappropriate, the sort that make you blush, and then the ones you remember always. I've received some of each, and I've no doubt given some of each.

I've also had the privilege of meeting Chuck, whose compliment was the sort you remember always. Only this one was a compliment to himself. Gentlemen, watch and learn. I met Chuck in the parking lot at college. He was there for the baseball game, probably to watch his grandson. He roped me in with a question and then started talking about his bear-like physique. He held out his forearms and said, "Go 'head, give 'em a feel." Um. He also wanted to show me the scar on his chest and gave me his number on a napkin.

Compliments are gifts we can give without ever knowing their effect, but that's all the more reason to give them freely and happily. We never know how our words will affect someone. But you can probably still remember the day someone paid you a compliment that came at the perfect time and in the perfect way. You probably remember the shirt you were wearing. Maybe it was part of a radical change in you. And that person has no idea.

The two compliments I've received that I will never forget both came from older men I respect. The first was from my college writing professor, who was impossible on the outside but soft as cotton on the inside. He gave me a book for graduation and wrote on the inside cover, "You have all the hope in the world." If I ever write a book it will be dedicated to him. The second was from my old boss, and on my last day at work before moving to Colorado, he told me that if he had ever had a daughter, he'd want her to be just like me. I melt.

They don't have any idea what those words meant to me. They may never know. But I've learned that when you think someone is grand, it's always better when you say so.


  1. It is quite strange to come up with a meaningful compliment for a post about compliments. I find myself quite scared that my comment will be less than I hope it to be. I will simply say these words made me smile, chuckle, and contemplate. How great is that?

  2. A good word spoken in a timely fashion is always uplifting!!! (many places in Prov. say so, Haha!)