Do you have a habit of starting with the negative?
I always considered myself to be a glass half full type of person. I’m pretty optimistic about life, but I realized by watching a friend of mine over the years that maybe I haven’t always been as positive as I thought.
When I was first getting to know this friend, I once made a comment to her about how awesome I thought her boys were. Her response was immediate and warm: “Yeah, they’re pretty wonderful,” she said. I have to be honest, the quickness of her positivity caught me off guard! Wonderful!? I thought to myself. You must be a little full of yourself to say that! The good feelings I was having about my new friend and her sons were immediately replaced with negativity. I quickly began wondering what kind of a person takes a compliment an elevates it. Her positive affirmation in response to the compliment I gave her really turned me off. It didn’t seem very humble of her to affirm that her kids were the greatest!
As I continued getting to know her, I noticed this trend of positivity continue. Whenever someone gave her a compliment, she always responded with a warm and affirming smile. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that my friend was not the bragging type at all. In fact, she was the complete opposite! She’s the humblest woman I’ve ever met!
True humility includes the ability to accept a compliment graciously, and I was quickly learning that this was something that I greatly struggled with. The more I was around this friend, the more I realized that this quality came so natural to her. She was able to accept a compliment with grace, not because she was full of herself and boastful, but because she was able to recognize God’s great blessings in front of her and acknowledge that they came not from her own merits, but His.
This was a virtue that I was lacking, and still have to work hard at. Whenever I receive any sort of compliment, it is always my natural instinct to throw out a negative comment in response. It’s my effort to balance out how uncomfortable I feel when someone praises me in some way. Though my negative responses happen quickly, the underlying reality is that, more often than not, I choose to focus on what I don’t have or possess, rather than what I do have: many good things that are truly gifts from God.
By watching my friend, I was inspired to put her positive attitude to work. Whenever someone gave me a compliment I decided to graciously accept it. And modeling my friend’s behavior, I even decided to add a positive affirmation along with it!
If someone said something nice about my children, I’d respond by admitting some of their good qualities: “Yes, he’s a great big brother,” or “Yes, she’s my happy kid.” (Something like that.) If someone said I looked nice in a dress, instead of complaining about how my jeans still don’t fit, I’d smile and thank them without putting myself down.
And you know what I learned? I learned overtime to be more grateful for the things in my life.
It’s still something I struggle with, though. Seeking to be more humble has brought all of my insecurities to light, and it’s highlighted for me all the ways that I focus on my perceived failures and flaws. These things are hard to let go of, but God does not want us falling back on them.
When we throw out negatives to offset positives, we unintentionally put emphasis on all that we lack, instead of being grateful for all that we have. My friend really helped me see and appreciate all the gifts that God has given me, and that it’s not only okay to acknowledge those gifts that come from God, but to affirm them and to be grateful for them.
The next time you catch yourself being negative when someone pays you a compliment, stop yourself and remember to be grateful for the blessings in your life.
Want to keep up with all things By Love Refined? Sign up for By Love Weekly! I’ll keep you up to date on new posts and share behind the scenes inspiration on living the Catholic faith! Sign up here.
You can also keep up with me on Instagram here.