A Plea for a Different Sort of Compliment

Today is going to be a bit different.

One small difference is that I’m not going to use pictures. As you read on, perhaps you’ll understand why. 

The main difference? 

Usually, I write about things that have a fairly wide range of interest for people rather than writing for parents or musicians or thirty-four-year-old women who love art and logic.

Today, though, I feel as though God is asking me to speak directly to my women friends. To be honest, I’ve actually been avoiding this essay for a while. I’ve found, though that it’s usually best not to disobey God.

To my men friends: please don’t go away. Keep reading if you like and hear some things that could teach you how to better love all of the women in your life.

The impetus for these thoughts was a conversation I overheard at a Hearts at Home conference last month. 

Yes, I was eavesdropping. It’s a really bad habit of mine. My darling husband has tried his best to break me of it, but people always have such interesting things to say! I can’t help being curious about people I see.

The two women were talking about a marathon that one of them had just completed. My own thought was “Wow! That’s impressive. What discipline and what an amazing accomplishment.” 

The comment of her companion? “Wow! No wonder you’re as skinny as a stick!”

My heart grew just a bit heavy as I glanced back at them.

May I say something here in this space that we don’t talk about much, if ever? Something that is a really hard thing because this place in our hearts is so very sore and tender?

All of the women I know, with whom I have spoken about these things, struggle with their body image. 

All.



Small, large, tall, little, plain or stunning by this world’s standards…all.

If you do not and never have struggled with this, you are in a blessed minority. I am so grateful that you have not had to hurt over this. Will you keep reading so you can know how to help the rest of us?

Sweet friends. Our world, our culture, screams at us that we should look a certain way, that our bodies should be a certain shape. Most of us (all of us?), at the least, go through periods where we do not like what we see in the mirror. 

Some of us never like what we see.

With our world forcing impossible images in front of our hearts and minds, could we, as sisters in Christ, vow to stop talking to each other in the manner I overheard? Could we stop complimenting each other on how skinny we are and bragging about how little we eat? 

Could we, instead, praise each other for working hard at a difficult task, for doing yet another week’s laundry for our family, for working on the fruit of self-control, for spending a little extra time with God yesterday? 

Yes, we should take care of our bodies. Yes, we should encourage each other to eat well and exercise so as to stay healthy and to have enough energy to accomplish the tasks that God sets before us.

But could we please stop reinforcing our culture’s obsession with the size of our waists?

We seem to think, and to communicate to each other, that we are made beautiful by what we do or don’t do, rather than by the simple fact that God made us. 

To paraphrase James: my sisters, this should not be! We are called to be different, to speak God’s truth to each other.

Out of love for each other, out of love for your sister who is struggling to see herself as a beautiful work of God, could we all promise to choose different compliments? 

The words that we use with each other can either reinforce our culture’s perspective that we are how we look or our God’s view that we are beautiful because He made us.

My beautiful sisters (and you amazing men who stuck with me!), will you choose to be mindful of how you speak? Will you promise to use words that encourage rather than words that make us want to either run into a darkened room to hide God’s amazing creation or to take sinful pride in what we have accomplished in our own strength?

If you wish, we could use the comment space as a safe place to talk about this subject. We have only kind words and compassionate hearts here.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this!! I was raised in a culture where it’s common for both men & women to comment openly & aloud on a person’s appearance, for no reason at all. (Yes, men tell women how they’re looking–awkward!)

    It’s a shame that we limit our interactions to one’s physicality. We should look to go deeper and compliment their personalities, their drive, their passion. It’s the comments on physicality that really reflect the speaker’s inner battle.

    Or better yet–if you have nothing (nice) to say, don’t say anything at all!

    • Perhaps that’s why we choose the compliments and words that we do…because that is what we are struggling with!

      And yes: follow the mom advice! She knows what she’s talking about.

  2. Well said, Elizabeth and I couldn’t agree more!!!! I nearly cried when I posted a picture of me and a friend who recently lost over 200 pounds (amazing, right?!!) and one of her family members who I don’t know said that she was looking anorexic. WHY in the world do we do this?!!!
    It is always, always, ALWAYS wrong to put others down in order to make ourselves feel better.
    Thanks for being brave enough to share this!

  3. Elizabeth – we are all fearfully and wonderfully made! Thanks for your insight. I will def. keep this in mind – its a great reminder that we are so much more!

  4. I think you’ve just captured the answer peftcerly

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