— Santiago, the old man in The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
For the longest time I have had trouble accepting complements without squirming, or being affirmed verbally from a friend or my spouse.
It is a skill to be able to accept help, accept a gift, accept a complement with a strong “Thank you” and without a feeling of inferiority or owing-ness or insecurity.
Humility is not synonymous with weakness, yet can sometimes be perceived that way or feel that way. They are separate states entirely. In Proverbs — the wisdom wellspring of the b-i-b-l-e — actually humility is often associated with power, honor, wisdom, and wealth.
Unfortunately we can too often get the whole humility thing wrong by deploying self-deprication-masked-as-humility. We deflect and downplay instead of saying, “thanks, that means a lot to hear that from you.” This of course comes out of our own insecurities. Insecurities which would likely be non-existent if we worked to root our identity and self-value in who we are in Jesus. That is — safe, forgiven, accepted unconditionally, more than conquerers, and innately valued, dignified, and deeply loved.
[Note: I’m not sure, but this may be more of a male problem — decopuling our value from what we do, or feeling squirmish when being praised or validated or affirmed. It can feel woo-woo, touchy-feely, or mushy to affirm and be affirmed verbally. To receive genuine praise or complements…or maybe it’s just me :)]
So here’s my challenge (to myself or you) to work on developing this skill of graciously and humbly accepting help and approbation or affirmation (or accepting anything, really). Whenever I find myself in a position of receiving (which is a practice in and of itself in our fiercely independent-valued culture), I will simply work to give a hearty “Thank you.” No bargaining. No trying to ‘even out’ the social debt in some other way. No downplaying. No deflecting. Simply accepting and thanking.
Like the Old Man, who graciously accepts help from The Boy in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, I must remind myself there is no disgrace or loss of pride accepting help even when there is no way to repay, depending on someone, or recieving praise.