“You’re beautiful!”

“You are so smart!”

“I love that idea.”

“You do a great job!”

What are these? Compliments, obviously, right? When we hear a genuine compliment we smile, we feel good, we appreciate it. Compliments that are genuine and true build us up and encourage us. They cast away doubts and fill us with hope. A simple but genuine compliment can go a long way.

Recently I was in Aldi, where I seem to find myself a lot, and I walked down an aisle where another lady was shopping. She had on a pretty summer dress so I said, “I like your dress. You look great.” I’ll never forget the look on her face. She was surprised at first and then smiled brightly. It was simple, quick, and took nothing from me, yet it brightened her day.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I’ve heard a few criticisms disguised as compliments lately and I think it needs to be pointed out. Here are a few I’ve heard lately…

“I’m in awe of you. I just don’t know how you do it. You do so many things and are always running. I’d just be exhausted and not able to keep up. I definitely couldn’t do it.”

At first it seems like a compliment. But, it left me feeling knocked down. Part of it was the tone, almost a bit of scoff in the midst of it. Part of it is the way the person tuned it back to all about herself. The underlying message here is I don’t really approve of how busy you are and the decisions you’ve made for your family.

If you find yourself, like I did after this comment, feeling like you need to defend whatever it is they commented on, it wasn’t a compliment.

“I can’t believe you drive your kids into town daily for band. You sure run a lot. That’s nice of you. I’d never want to be trapped in that.”

Again, not a compliment. It’s really a criticism of one person’s choices and a belief that there’s a better choice to make. I felt the need to defend my choice once again and was left wondering if I had made a bad decision.

Words matter. They touch someone deeply, whether in a good or bad way. Your passive-aggressive comments hurt people. Plain and simple.

The old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” holds some truth. Sometimes we do have to speak truth and that can be painful in the moment but helpful in the long run. But hurtful or underhanded comments are never necessary!

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

Look at how powerful words are! You can cheer up someone anxious, you can be sweet as honey to someone’s soul, you can heal! With words!

I challenge you today and this whole week, to give genuine compliments. Really and truly speak encouragement and life to others’ souls. You’ll be amazed at how good it makes you feel too!