Women Should Just Say Thanks!

All the women I know fall into one of two categories: those who can graciously accept a compliment and those who would rather grout the tub than graciously accept a compliment.  And, of the women I know who would be able to graciously accept a compliment, there’s really only about 3 of them. 

That means that pretty much every single woman I know, or have ever casually encountered, or have heard while eavesdropping on a conversation is unable to easily embrace a compliment.

womanAs this includes me, as well, I have recently become very intrigued by this phenomenon.   On the face of it, a compliment is a fairly innocuous thing and women shouldn’t fear or reject compliments the way they do.  And yet they do.

“Wow Sally – that is a beautiful dress you have on.  It is so flattering for your figure!”

“This?! Why, this is nothing! Nothing I tell you! I bought it at the clearance bin of a thrift resale store. In fact, they paid me to take it!” Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating; but not by much.

Having been on the giving and receiving end of that particular conversation, many times, makes me really wonder what it is about the feminine physiological make-up that tends to make compliments seen as a verbal onslaught to be dodged and avoided. 

I believe it is because women are, by nature, givers.  To take something, even in the form of a compliment, is almost foreign to females. When JPII spoke of the feminine genius, he was speaking directly about the trait that is inherent in woman, what he called “the gift of self.”  Women are, by their very design, meant to give. They are wired to nurture and tend to others.  Sure, some do a better job of this than others, but at her very core, a woman is created as a giver.   

It doesn’t matter how often radical feminism denies it, women are different from men. The Truth of our Faith, though, is that different doesn’t have a value attached to it.  The value exists in the full and complete phrase “different but equal.” 

It is this very message that is at the core of who we are and how we can serve God.  Women throughout the ages have modeled this for us.  Zipporah most certainly had a marriage to Moses that was different than she would have imagined and yet her role was as important to God’s plan as was Moses’.  To believe that God called upon Moses separate from Zipporah is to misunderstand the Sacrament of marriage, as eventually made clear when Jesus performed His first miracle at the Wedding at Cana.  Zipporah is a perfect example of “gift of self.

When Naomi encouraged her daughters-in-law to stay in their homeland while she would return to Bethlehem, she was acting in complete selflessness.  Naomi had, by that time, lost her husband and her sons.  Naomi could have selfishly asked – or expected – her daughters-in-law to remain with her; but, instead, she encouraged them to be on their way, separate from her, in hopes of finding fulfillment.  Indeed, Naomi’s “gift of self” was so beautiful that Ruth could not tear herself from her mother-in-law but chose to remain with her.  And, of course it is this selfless action that ultimately begets the lineage from which our Savior is born.

Women are givers and though they may get mired in the day-to-day details of life and lose track of their true selves, at their very essence they are meant to provide love, comfort, and guidance. While this may make receiving compliments difficult or arduous, it is what makes women unique and necessary to God’s plan for mankind

Women can and should understand that receiving compliments does not diminish who they are, as givers; but, rather enhances who they are as daughters of the King.  For women who struggle with accepting compliments, it is good to remember that a gracious and sincere “Thank-you” is actually a gift to the giver of the compliment!  And so, graciously accepting a compliment is truly a “gift of self.”

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About the Author

Ms. Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic publisher, author, columnist, and speaker. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, contact her by email (link below) or call her at 248-917-3865. She is the author of the exciting new book Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide which focuses on the joy found in connecting with our past. Our Jewish Roots, along with other excellent Catholic books, is available through her website (link below). Cheryl has a Master’s Degree in Education and lives in the beautiful state of Michigan with her husband and three sons. Cheryl is a contributing writer to the "Today's Catholic - Women in Faith" category at the Integrated Catholic Life.

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  1. You wrote: For women who struggle with accepting compliments, it is good to remember that a gracious and sincere “Thank-you” is actually a gift to the giver of the compliment! And so, graciously accepting a compliment is truly a “gift of self.”

    Thank-YOU! I will work at remembering your words; this is something I need to put into practice. Compliment my work – I’m fine with that. Compliment something I’m wearing – I’m OK with that, too. But, something about a “personal compliment” grinds at me like a mortar tearing apart spices in a pestle.

  2. Victoria,

    You capture perfectly the way that the closer a compliment gets to us personally, the more difficult it is to accept–love the whole mortar/pestle analogy!

    I accept your “Thank you” and hope you will accept mine for your kind response to the article:-)

    See, we’ll begin right here with the “thank-you’s!”

    Easter blessings to you and yours,


  3. Cheryl and Victoria,

    Men suffer from this as well and similarly to what Victoria noted for her, not so much in regards to work, but more in regards to the more important things. So I too will take this advice also… and, oh, thank you both!

    Deacon Mike

  4. Deacon Mike,

    That is really eye-opening and something I appreciate you sharing! I admit it isn’t something I had really thought about but it just goes to show that we all ought to understand that graciously accepting a compliment is a nice gift to give others.

    So…..Thank you!


  5. You have a great point here!

    I know that I am one who has trouble taking a compliment. A boyfriend pointed this out to me years ago, and I reflected on it. He was right. I realized that it stemmed from having been given so many false compliments as a child. My father out ranked many in the military and my father doted on me. His colleagues were constantly complimenting me at events…compliments I found to be untrue. By the time I was a teen, I completely mistrusted compliments. I’m glad to have grown in this area. I also try to make sure that I am 100% sincere when I compliment another. I don’t want to be guilty of false ones!

    I had a recent reminder of this lesson as I visited a couple who are old family friends in their 80’s. The husband asked my husband if I could take a compliment. He said yes, and Mr. Cooley told my husband that it was a real gift. He told us about years of hurt when he would compliment his wife and she’d deflect his words with disbelief. Whenever she couldn’t take his compliment, he took it as his wife not accepting his love. He said it all comes down to love: loving others and letting them love you.

  6. Kristine,

    Thank you for sharing what your family friend said about the hurt he felt when his wife didn’t/couldn’t accept his compliments.

    After reading your own account of why you couldn’t accept compliments it made me wonder what sort of experience Mr. Cooley’s wife had that made accepting compliments so difficult.

    Let’s face it, we all have baggage and most of us probably don’t realize how simple it is for us to make someone happy–by graciously accepting their sincere compliments; or how we can hurt people when we are dismissive towards the gift of kind words that they try to bestow.



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