Can you take a compliment?

"Can you take a compliment?" by Deanna Bartalini (

Copyright 2017 Deanna Bartalini. All rights reserved.

Ask yourself that question and answer it; honestly answer it. No, wait, not yet. First, let me explain the type of compliment I am talking about. It’s a well-thought-out, serious, specific one. When I was a teacher we were frequently admonished not to give “general” praise but “specific” praise, as in don’t say, “great job” but “I like the way you used blue in the picture.” So, when I pay a compliment it’s not of the garden variety type such as “nice dress” or “your hair looks fabulous” or “delicious meal.”

Don’t get me wrong; it’s nice to hear those and I rarely have trouble throwing back a quick “thanks” and a smile in response. It’s when people really show their appreciation or recognize something in me that only a person who knows me well could compliment me on that I cringe. Yes, I said cringe. I noticed this tendency very strongly in the last few months, mainly because of what was happening in my life.

First, a friend said something about our children and how he admired the adults they had become, with very specific examples. He said this not only to my husband and me but another couple as well. I was embarrassed and made a self-depreciating joke. He disagreed with my comment. I think I muttered a “well, we did the best we could” and felt uncomfortable.

Another day, a friend said something about my ability to connect with others and teach about the faith in an inviting way. Another has repeatedly said I have a “gentle spirit” in a prayer ministry. I’m uncomfortable now because I know you are reading this and I didn’t want to repeat the compliments, but without examples this would go nowhere fast.

I took this to prayer more than once, and I will most likely pray about it again. Why can’t I take a compliment? Past conditioning, feelings of unworthiness, wanting to appear humble, not wanting to call attention to myself all come into play for me. Then I wondered, who does it serve to not accept compliments? Not God, that’s for sure. It serves the evil one and allows him to get into my head and then I start questioning my abilities, my purpose, and, even worse, God’s plan for my life.

Each day I try to live my life for God. Some days I do a better job of that than others but God knows my soul and intentions. I will work on accepting compliments and knowing that what people see is what God has done in me as I try to do his will. It is good for others to recognize our abilities and good for us to acknowledge their appreciation.

So now back to my original question: can you take a compliment?

Copyright 2017 Deanna Bartalini


About Author

Deanna G. Bartalini, is a Catholic writer, speaker, and educator. She and her husband Deacon John have two married children and a grandson. Deanna loves teaching about Catholicism and how it fits into our daily lives. She writes at, serves as the editor of the blog, and is a contributor there as well as at Deanna contributed to A Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion published by Ave Maris Press. She has written “Invite the Holy Spirit into Your Life: Growing in Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control” one book in the series of the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women published by Our Sunday Visitor. Deanna is available to lead retreats and speak at catechist and ministry events.

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