Your Appreciation Is Not Appreciated

tunicA few years ago, I was given a book, ‘How to Give and Receive Encouragement’, (Yes, I needed it).  To begin with, it seemed like a foreign language. After all, I grew up thinking that “getting a big head” was pretty much the worst that could happen. Therefore the aim of social interaction was to keep both myself and others squashed – humble.  This applied especially to the people I loved most. After all, if being proud is the greatest sin, then the greatest kindness is to take ’em down. I call it “banter”, but if you’re not northern Irish, you could call it, “baffling and unprovoked cruelty”.

I’m learning to change – but it’s been a slow and painful process (for everyone).  However,  it’s receiving encouragement that feels most uncomfortable.

Someone tells you how much they’ve appreciated your support.  Your boss takes you aside to say what a good job you’re doing. A friend says ‘you look great!’

How do you respond?

With a gracious thank-you?  By contorting yourself into a tiny triangle and muttering? Or (my favourite) – outright denial: ‘It was nothing! / There must be some mistake/Are you JOKING?

Why do we react this way?

Sometimes it comes from low esteem.  I think I’m rubbish: and when others contradict this, it doesn’t add up.  it’s uncomfortable: there’s a bucket in my head for the negative, but no space for the good.

Then, there’s culture.  Where I’m from, keeping others humble is a sign of affection.  But in other places, effusive praise is just basic courtesy.

Or maybe it’s fear.  If you think I’m good, you’ll expect more of me.  What if I can’t live up to your expectations?  What if you find out I’m a fraud? Maybe your love is conditional on my performance…and if I let you down you’ll instantly back off.


But here’s what I’m learning: receiving praise is not just about me. It’s a gift: and requires vulnerability on the part of the giver.  It’s an expression of their emotions and experience: and when I bat it away, I can bat them away too.

So, take a deep breath.  When someone says something nice, let it hang there for a moment.  Don’t say why they’re wrong and don’t bat it away.  Instead, go with ‘thank-you’. Pray about it later. And remember that receiving is a way of blessing too.






7 thoughts on “Your Appreciation Is Not Appreciated

  1. Great post with so many good points! This one sentence stood out for me – ‘If you think I’m good, you’ll expect more of me’ – ouch – this is so true in my little world at times! The pressure that little bit of praise can bring can be destroying if we let it! I have found this with my blog writing – a few nice and well meant compliments sent me into a panic – ‘what, they think I’m good at writing, now I actually have to try and write well!!’ Pressure, pressure, pressure – and the joy in writing goes! All totally self-inflicted of course!! A simple ‘thank you’ would have been a much better option!

  2. what: THIS post? No: it’s rubbish. I just threw it together. In fact, I didn’t even write it. I bought it for 20p at the market and they said it was oversold.

    .. :-) thanks jo

  3. Hi Emma,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now, but I think this is my first comment. This post, like most of them, describes me exactly, though I’m from the north east not NI, maybe there’s a cultural similarity? I remember a 1-2-1 study I did with a friend as I was becoming a Christian. We were doing Philippians 2 and she asked how I would define humility/being humble. I said that it was like being modest, to which she replied, “well… Jesus walked around telling people he was God, so modesty isn’t really what we’re getting at”. I was shocked by how far off base my understanding was, having always considered myself humble for refusing praise! But Christ’s humility is putting others before yourself. It’s ok for me to admit my gifts, what’s not ok is for me to think that they make be better than anyone else, or by extension that they give me my worth. That’s just what the post reminded me of, but thank you for all of them, they are so helpful, and now that I’ve introduced myself, let me also say congratulations on the baby!

  4. Hi Imogen: and thanks for reading! You’re spot on: it’s ok to admit (and maybe even celebrate!) my gifts, without letting them define me. Very glad God puts in community with friends to point us in the right direction :-)

  5. “but if you’re not northern Irish, you could call it, “baffling and unprovoked cruelty”.”

    ..and if you’re British, you could call it humour – or should that be sarcasm?

    Guilty as charged m’lud.

  6. Imogen, I find your distinction of modesty and humility helpful. I often get those words tangled up. “It’s ok for me to admit my gifts, what’s not ok is for me to think that they make be better than anyone else”… that’s well put. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with Emma (and the rest of us!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *