Recently, I have been receiving a number of compliments about my singing.
On B’s wedding day, I was singing a song whilst helping him iron his groomsmens’ shirts. One of his groomsmen, A, overheard me and kept exclaiming that I should audition for American Idol. He said it not once, not twice, but three different times! Then, there was the other Sunday at church when I sat next to this lady whom I have never met before. After the service, she turned around to me and said “do you know that you have a really good voice?” And today, I received an email from SP. She had requested that I send her the mp3 of the songs we did for Vicky’s wedding, claiming that “I like your voice very much.”
I feel flattered by all the praise that has been piled my way. I do love singing, and it feels awesome when other people acknowledge that I am good at it. I am thankful to God for this gift, and do want to serve Him with this voice He has blessed me with. I sing in the worship band at church now and again, but I do often wonder if I could do more with what He has given me.
So anyway, I got thinking. When people commend and applaud us, what should our response be?
When I still lived in Singapore, the correct response would be denial. When someone else praises you to the skies, you are expected to say “(in Singlish) No la, I am so lousy, so-and-so is so much better.” The aim of the game would be to deny the compliment, and then proceed to explain to the other party why you are not as good as they make you out to be. In fact, you want to try and convince them that they are better than you in the said activity/sport/talent. You wouldn’t want to come across as arrogant and full of yourself by accepting that you are “amazing” or “wonderful” or “stunning,” would you? Of course, you don’t really mean what you say; secretly, you are proud that they have flattered you. It’s a hypocritical response really, to think one way but act in another. In a way, I think it goes far beyond simply trying to come across as humble and meek. In fact, I think this response lies far from humility but instead reeks of “reverse pride.” By putting ourselves down, we are hoping that the complimenting party will then try and convince us of our awesomeness by piling on more praise or by explaining our greatness, thus feeding the pride monster that lives in all our hearts. In my opinion, it is a self-glorification seeking process.
When I got to the UK, I had to be taught how to receive compliments. I remember one of my closest girlfriends, Lyd, telling me that I should accept praise and just say “thank you” with a smile. Doing so doesn’t mean you are arrogant and proud, you are just accepting that someone else thinks you are good at something and are thankful for that. There is nothing wrong with being proud anyway. We should all be proud of the gifts and talents that we have- it builds self esteem and self confidence after all, doesn’t it? Being proud of what you have is good; pride becomes a negative thing only when we start claiming greatness for what we do not have or cannot do, or when we claim more of it than we deserve.
Lately, I have been watching a couple of interviews with the NBA sensation Jeremy Lin. Here is an example of a guy who has been lauded and celebrated the world over for his genius gameplay. Yet, he remains ever so grounded and has stayed humble about his achievements hitherto. Jeremy Lin proudly (and rightly) acknowledges his flair for the game, but doesn’t forget that he cannot do it all without his team mates. In fact, he goes even further to acknowledge and thank the Lord who helps him play. I love the way he points everyone back to God over and over and over again. When people are pointing at him saying “you are amazing,” he is pointing at God saying “He’s the one who is really amazing.” I love his unabashed and public proclamation of Jesus’ name whenever he gets the chance to, so that all the world can see and know who really is in control.
There is so much we can learn from Jeremy Lin in the way we deal with compliments: give all glory back to God- the author and creator of this universe, the giver of life, the source of love, joy, peace, and the bestower of all blessings. When God gets all the glory, we can feel free to be as proud as we want- proud of the Lord who deserves to be extolled for His amazing grace.