What, This Old Thing?

I think we may have addressed the fact that I can be a little slow on the uptake in previous posts. If it's just me being stupid, I don't mind so much, but I hate when it affects other people.

I'm horrible at taking compliments. I've gotten so that I'm not quite as outwardly un-gracious anymore. I've learned to smile and say thank you. Inside, however, I blow off whatever words are offered as soon as they're spoken. They're just being nice.

This is, when I think about it, an appallingly disrespectful perspective. All of the people around me are fundamentally insincere? All of the people around me have time to waste offering praise they don't mean?

It's even more disrespectful when I blow off praise for sermons. This is what got me thinking about it, actually. I am very, very uncomfortable when I'm praised for a sermon. (And, since I'm still In The Process, people tend to be much more vocal and encouraging about my sermons than they might be for a full-time pastor.) I don't really feel like I "do" the sermon. I mean, obviously I write it, and certainly any flaws or weaknesses in it are mine, but I really try to just share what I'm given. (God's not holding the pen, but I try to be attentive to the Spirit. What touches me is what I share.)

So, people have given very positive feedback, and I have felt very awkward. I realized yesterday (after Good Friday, I'm sorry to say) that awkwardness gets in the way of pastoral attentiveness. Wouldn't it be better to ask in reply, "Was there something in particular that spoke to where you are right now?" Nurturing conversation instead of hiding. Or, instead of asking a question, sharing that it's personal for me, too. That I need the messages I find as I preach.

So, something to think about. A new way to grow.


  1. I had a conversation with another pastor in which I confessed the same discomfort, and he said that he had gotten out of the habit of saying "thank you" after being praised for a sermon and said "I'm glad" instead. As in, "that was a great sermon, pastor," responded to with, "I'm glad." He felt like it took the personal-praise bit away and yet acknowledged the comment. I'm sure no one cares that I do this, but it makes a difference to me. And sometimes "thank you" is perfectly appropriate, but I don't use it very much anymore.

  2. I like what your first commenter said. I do also like the idea of finding something specific....

  3. Very thoughtful. I too like the idea of finding something specific. I admit I felt a twinge of discomfort imagining myself doing that--it would feel as though I were asking for more compliments by continuing the discussion. And of course I know that's not what you meant. I just wonder if there is ANY sensitive person who has learned to receive praise gracefully (on the inside, I mean).


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins