“Try to compliment, not to criticize,” a phrase from the Winners Walk Tall theme song, an instruction that I discussed with First Graders last Thursday, the power of which I personally experienced a few days ago.
The compliment came quite unexpectedly during an ordinary evening mall walk with my husband. We were about halfway through the mall when he spotted a co-worker and his wife, nice folks with whom I’ve enjoyed a few brief conversations. Their work days finished, they had been out to dinner and were headed for the Hallmark store. We stood with them for a few minutes making small talk, mostly related to work and the weather. As I looked at her, I began doing what women tend to do. I noticed her perfectly styled hair, and even though my hair has become an object lesson for defining “envy” in my Bible study class, I felt like I had a mop on my head. Her beautifully made-up face triggered thoughts of the imperfections I see in my own magnifying mirror and of how little make-up I was wearing. Talking, listening, and smiling, I did a quick survey of her layered office wear, complimented by a designer purse and stylish coat, and remembered that I wasn’t wearing a bra underneath my casual clothing and jacket.
I like these people. Yet, here I was, making a negative comparison of myself to her. She made a comment about our walking shoes, one that clued me in that she was doing her own self-evaluation. Having enjoyed a nice dinner with her husband, she felt a bit guilty because we were exercising and she wasn’t.
As we resumed our walk, I silently put away my insecure, somewhat envious thoughts without whining to my husband. Women compare themselves to each other, and I am a woman. I reminded myself that I love my life as a homemaker and volunteer, and that my husband has called me beautiful every day of our nearly 34 years of marriage, even, rather, especially, on the days when I’ve felt rough. After I wrote about my Cold Sore Crisis, I acknowledged to him that I didn’t look that bad in my before make-up and hair picture. His wise words, “It’s not how you look that matters; it’s how you feel,” revealed his understanding of women. I’m more confident during this stage of life than I’ve ever been. There are just those moments when, in the company of attractive, accomplished people, I feel like a floodlight is illuminating how plain, old, or ordinary I am.
Continuing our walk, we rounded a corner and encountered a group of young girls, talking and moving in dancelike, joyous friendship. As I passed one of the beauties, probably nine or ten years old, she looked me in the eye and said, “Hi! You’re very beautiful,” then carried on with her friends. Before I could brush her words off, I heard Dave telling me, “She’s right, you know.” The power of her spontaneous, sincere compliment was undeniable. I was able to receive her gift of words as what some call a “God wink.” His love, expressed through the child and my husband, encouraged me.
I’ve pondered the series of events in my spirit for days, feeling amazed at the tender love of our Lord Jesus, gaining confidence in the beauty of a gentle, quiet spirit, one that is willing to resist the urge to think or speak negatively about myself, considering how the tale might encourage you to give and receive compliments.
(I purchased this beautiful artwork from the Etsy shop, Little Emma’s Flowers.)