Compliments and Self-forgetfullness

What is it that makes a compliment so difficult to accept? Someone says something nice and we respond with a quiet “thank you” while staring at the floor. Our cheeks probably turn a bit rosy as well, right? Or we dismiss the flattering remark all together?! YET I think some of us would have to admit that we are often [ever so indirectly] clawing for a compliment just to feel good about ourselves for a fleeting moment.

Affirmation isn’t a bad thing. I would think it’s not even wrong to desire its encouragement here and there. But, where is this disconnect between hearing these kind words and humbly accepting them? And knowing the difference between a healthy wanting and an insecure need?

Many of my insecurities are not unlike those of the average teenage girl. Yours too, probably. I think most of us have learned to equate value with the wrong things – beauty, productivity, financial success. We grew up surrounded by images emphasizing the importance of these things, but society only proves impossible to please [and so does the mind of a perfectionist, by the way]. A well meaning compliment, in some twisted way, seems to highlight shortcomings. The infamous, “Yeah, but…” that runs through our minds when someone points out one of our better features. What an exhausting way to live!

This is what I know to be true: In Christ, we are loved and our value is certain. It is from this truth I hope to find the strength to focus my mind on more important things than myself, mainly Jesus and serving Him. I think this is the only way a compliment can be so boldly accepted the way it’s meant to be.

“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.” – William Temple

Part of my Story

Thursday [March 1st] was National Self-injury Awareness Day. I spent many of the 24 hours thinking about my own struggle with cutting in the past and felt like God was challenging me to share this part of my story with others.

I started cutting myself when I was in eighth grade. I was 14 years old. I didn’t know what I was doing or what would happen after that first time. It was just something I thoughtlessly tried one day in art class because I was bored…and before I could stop it, cutting myself had become my secret escape. It gave me something to control when everything around me was falling apart. Sometimes it was an attempt to numb what I was feeling, and in a lot of ways I felt like I deserved it. I couldn’t live up to what I expected of myself. Things looked good on the outside; I was working hard to be a successful student, trying to be a good athlete, striving to be an active youth group participant and a well behaved daughter my parents could be proud of. In some ways, cutting was me giving up on myself. I knew I could never be the picture of perfect I carried around in my mind and wondered how anyone could love me or pay any attention to me unless I gave them a reason. All of a sudden my long kept secret became a cry for help, and it seemed to work. Cutting myself was how I tried to keep people in my life, but I knew the game I was playing. My broken and manipulative heart was never satisfied. I reasoned that none of the people who were trying to help would be any more than an acquaintance had I kept this to myself. I hated who I was and dismissed the “God loves you, and I love you…” statements I’d heard over and over again from the same people. I’d joyfully given my heart to Jesus when I was six and even decided I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up just a few years later, and now I was wondering how God could want anything to do with me.

I really struggled to see anything wrong with what I was doing, and I didn’t think I was hurting anyone else. But I was so selfish! Somehow there were people who never gave up on me, people who kept speaking truth into the lies I was believing and cared more about me getting better than whether I liked them or not. I had to get to a place where I actually wanted to stop. I had to want to get better more than anyone else wanted it for me. It was a choice. No person could fix me, and I couldn’t apathetically submit to the same way of thinking anymore. I knew the truth! I could so easily believe it for you, but I had to fight for it in my own life! God had created me for so much more! Defining myself by these struggles kept me in them and hindered the way He could use me!

I remember a friend telling me years ago, “Jesus bled so that you didn’t need to.” It may be that I’m just now realizing the enormous truth in that statement. Healing took a long time. My scars are a very real reminder of all that God has done in my life, and He alone gets the glory for the enduring joy I have today. There wasn’t a single time I held a razor blade in my hand when God wasn’t in the room with me. There wasn’t a single cut he didn’t hold his hand over mine to stop the bleeding. I was never alone, never unloved! And now I want nothing more than for others to know this for themselves as well!

To Write Love on her Arms is a non-profit dedicated to finding help for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and thoughts of suicide.