What Does the Bible Say About Giving Compliments*

Tell me if you’ve ever had an interaction similar to one I had recently:

I saw a friend whose hair I just ADORE! It’s a thick, very curly, and a beautiful shade of auburn.

“I LOVE your hair, ” I gushed to her. She beamed because…who doesn’t like getting compliments.

Then, I quickly added, “I wish my curls looked like that. I hate my hair right now. The curls don’t look good anymore. I can’t find products I like. It’s just frizzy and limp and looks terrible. I’m probably going to cut it off and just be done with it. “

I didn’t notice because I was too wrapped up in my own thoughts, but I imagine the beaming smile that was on her face at the start of our conversation quickly slipped away. At the very least, she walked away from our conversation feeling puzzled. Confused. Uncomfortable. Maybe even hurt.

Have you ever been on the giving or the receiving end of a compliment like that? A compliment that was negated before it could even be appreciated?

Why do we (especially women) give compliments about our friends’ appearances, clothes, jobs, children, etc and then effectively take them back by complaining about our own appearances, clothes, jobs, children…

Or, maybe you’ve given someone a compliment and then worried the compliment offended them?!

Recently, I saw a picture on social media of a friend I hadn’t seen in a few weeks. From the picture, I could tell that she had lost weight. I grabbed my phone to text her and tell her…but I stopped. “It will hurt her feelings if I say I can tell she lost weight.” I thought to myself as I stood holding my phone. “She’ll think, ‘Geez! Was I that big before?!'”

So I didn’t send the text. But later, when I saw her in person, she was pumped to tell me she’d lost 16 pounds! {Forehead slap} Why oh why didn’t I compliment her when I first thought about it!

Why do we feel the need to qualify or explain compliments?

And why are compliments so hard to accept sometimes?

I wondered if there was any “Christian etiquette on giving and receiving compliments,” so I picked up my Bible to dig around and find out.

(I’ll go ahead and tell you that I didn’t find any information about how to compliment my friend’s gorgeous hair without making myself seem vain or insincere by turning the conversation back onto my own hair).

We don’t always find the answers we want when we pick up our Bibles, but we will find the answers we need.

We will find what is true. What is right. What is godly.

In my search, I looked first for examples of times in scripture when someone gave a compliment to someone else. Here are some of the verses I found:

1 Corinthians 11:2 – “I am so glad that you always keep me in your thoughts, and that you  are following the teachings I passed on to you.” (NLT)

Philippians 2: 19-22 – “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.  For I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.  But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” (ESV)

Colossians 2:5 – “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.” (NIV)

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 – “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love you all have for one another is increasing.  Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” (NIV)

2 Timothy 1: 3-5 – “I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.  Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.  I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (NIV)

Romans 1: 8 – “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” (NIV)

Philippians 1: 3-5 – “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…” (NIV)

(Many of these verses are from letters written by Paul). In these examples, what is he complimenting?

His praise to another person or another group of people is based on faithfulness, work for the kingdom, godliness, fruits of the spirit displayed, etc.

Here are some other verses about encouraging fellow believers:

Hebrews 10:24-25 – “Let us think of ways to motivate one another in love and good deeds.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (NLT)

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (NIV)

Romans 15:2 – “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” (NIV)

Proverbs 31:30 – “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (ESV)

1 Peter 3:34 – “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.  You should clothe yourself instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious to God.” (NLT)

Ephesians 4:29 – “Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (NLT)

Proverbs 12:25 – “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” (NIV)

What does all this mean? To me, it means that believers should look for opportunities to compliment the spiritual growth we see in others. We should encourage each other in our walk with Christ. We should motivate each other to do good. To be godly.

Giving and receiving compliments is challenging. But, Proverbs 12:25 shows us it’s necessary and good. (“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” NIV)

Offer encouragement and build up each other in Christ.

When I think it about it more, I believe giving and receiving compliments is difficult because of the condition of our hearts.

How is your heart when you give praise or a compliment? What is your motive?

How is your heart when you receive a compliment? Where do you stand with God at the moment?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t compliment people. It isn’t a sin to like someone’s hair, earrings, clothes, make-up, etc. Just check the condition of your heart first. Be sure your motives are pure – you simply saw something you liked and just wanted to tell that person 🙂

But, first and foremost, consider encouragement, motivation, and building each other up in Christ.

*It has been such a long time since I’ve written much of anything – even for myself. This post came about first as a devotion I wrote to share with the ladies I work with (we have devotions every morning before school starts, and twice a year, I am in charge of leading the devotional time). I miss writing and am still trying to dig out of whatever this hole is that I’m in where I’m not doing this thing that I love and was made to do. I would greatly appreciate your prayers.