Fishing for Compliments!
When I was a teen, there was a taboo. It was called “fishing for compliments.”
Break the taboo and risk ridicule.
Still, adolescent girls with zero percent self-worth often engaged in it.
Fishing for compliments isn’t pretty. What leads people to this humiliating activity?
Usually the reason to fish is a desperate need for affirmation. We have more self-doubt than self-confidence. Only praise from someone outside ourselves can build us up but that praise is scarce.
The bait for this affirmation? Harsh self-critique.
My hair looks so bad today.
Aren’t I an awful cook?
My project isn’t nearly as good as yours.
The desired result: someone jumps for the dangled bait with the nice fat validation you so desperately seek.
These fishing trips are seldom successful. In my high school peer group, friends would slap the bait away and say “Stop fishing for compliments.” Wonderful. Now everyone KNEW how needy we were.
We shouldn’t have needed compliments so badly. Not to the point we’d be willing to sacrifice dignity to get them. Maybe fishing for compliments was undignified, but a lot of us were just trying to survive. And sometimes a compliment seemed like the lifeline, even if we had to work too hard to get one.
We need compliments so badly some of us will humble ourselves to fish for them. Why are so few forthcoming?
Compliments come with some negative connotations.
Don’t they give the recipient an inflated ego? Shouldn’t we encourage each other to be meek?
Then there are the compliments that stink. We know the kind:
Blarney—excessive, insincere flattery
Barbed compliments—nasty comments masquerading under sweet words
Bribery—compliments offered only in an effort to get something back
All these are damaging. But sincere compliments offered with no baggage or expectation of return are not ego-inflating. They are life-giving.
HEALTHY FISH FOOD
Longevity in marriage, success in business and optimal performance in the military and education have one factor in common.* Every negative comment needs at least two positive ones to counteract the damaging effects. Isn’t that astonishing? The power of words to destroy or elevate. We call those positive comments COMPLIMENTS.
Do believers need this kind of affirmation from others? Can’t we just be satisfied with Christ saying “Well done, good and faithful servant?”
We can. But we thrive on affirmation because that is one way Christ chooses to build His body. No one should need to go fishing for it. We long to hear words of affirmation and edification. This is not a sign of weakness or need. It’s a sign that we were created to be built up in many ways, including the words of others.
I Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “…comfort yourselves together, and edify one another.” We should be actively looking for ways to build each other up. Because your fellow humans and especially your family in Christ need to hear sincere compliments, be lavish and generous and sincere with them.
A true, edifying, affirming and comforting compliment takes work. But what a healthy Body grows on these beautiful words!
EXAMPLES FROM A FISHER OF MEN
The apostle Paul built up his fellow believers ALL THE TIME. You can find his positive words at the beginning of almost every letter to the churches.
He’d never met the Christians in Rome but he complimented them.
Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
The ultimate Fisherman, Christ, asks in Luke 11 which of us, if our child asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
Which of us, when we see another in need of an affirming and positive word, won’t be willing to offer it?
Make sure no one needs to fish for compliments from you. Who can you affirm today?
The Power of Positivity, In Moderation: The Losada Ratio by