Let's Get Psyched: Was that compliment for me?

by Randy Kiel | January 28, 2020

Deacon Randy Kiel

Can you imagine having the audacious nerve to ask for a compliment to be repeated so that you can hear it twice? Vanity will do this. Or, can you imagine bragging about the compliment received so that others will notice? Vanity will do this also. The desire to be acknowledged and appreciated can run extremely high within all of us. People love compliments. But we must be careful; vanity’s satisfaction is not the purpose of a compliment. In fact, vanity has no satisfaction. Vanity produces a false identity, leaving a person empty and undefined. A compliment builds up and re-enforces a person, adding to how their personhood is defined. Vanity seeking behaviors will ruin a good thing. They will injure the compliment itself and only produce a weakened identity.

“Oh, please tell me how nice I look.” “Sure, you look very nice.” “I don’t feel like you meant that.” Wow! Can you hear the trap? We all probably have been on either of these two sides.

Sometimes, we spend our energy trying to be noticed for our professional accomplishments, material accumulations, acumen, intellectual ability, personal appearance, and spiritual positions and postures, i.e. false humility or pious. We could go through a whole lifetime with these empty pursuits and never hear enough vain compliments to satisfy an unbridled ego. It is our responsibility to keep ourselves in check when it comes to the matter of “ego”. We need God’s help for this. We humans can be self-destructive ego-maniacally driven creatures without Him.

Ego can be defined, for the purpose of this article, as the need we carry inside that tries to control how others perceive us on the outside, thus our false sense of self-importance or even our polarized false sense of unimportance. Ego would have us going through life looking and longing for words of affirmation and recognition so that we could make others and ourselves see us the way we want to be seen.

So let’s think, “What would be the healthiest, greatest, and most unegotistical compliment that one could ever receive? What compliment is the highest acknowledgement and respect that could ever be given?”

Jesus has given the answer to these questions. He reminds us several times in scripture that the most important words that we can ever receive will not come in this lifetime. These words do not represent the contaminated desires of egoism but rather the purity of the soul’s deep desire. These words would be the compliment that we might hear when we stand before him in eternity to account for our lives. These words would speak as an affirmation reserved for people who have met certain spiritual requirements in their walk with Jesus. Jesus tells us what he considers to be commendable. 

In the parable of the talents from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks out a commendation to the two faithful men when he compliments them saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” as compared to the third who did not serve his master well.

 Could there be a higher compliment?

Let’s look specifically at what Jesus complimented. He evaluated what was done by them with their lives, not spoken of, not intended to be done, but actually done. We cannot expect to hear the words “Well done” unless we have done well. This requires obedient actions and responses from within our own personal motivations. Faith changes our actions from the serving of self to serving the one who created us. Both of these men understood the highest call of all, the call to serve. Service was not only their motivation; it was also their pleasure. Perhaps this is what is meant when we also read, “Do everything in love.” This is true service. This is to be a deacon, Diakonia!

Jesus also affirmed the two men by saying they were “good and faithful.” The Greek word for good is “agathos”, which means upright moral virtue, kindness, joyful, and generous. Faithful is the word “pistos”, which means reliable, trustworthy, able to be counted on, follows through, and integrous.

So in our personal times of reflection, let’s look to see how these two words have applied to our actions, rather than our intentions. These would be actions that are full of agathos and pistos. I trust that all of us would long to hear such a compliment as the two servants heard. So let’s live daily with this servant-heart, giving demonstration of our Lord’s integrity and loyalty in our daily responsibilities and relationships. May we all, one day, be so privileged as to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant."
Randy Kiel

Randy Kiel is the founder of Kardia Counseling and is a deacon serving at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Des Moines, Iowa. To connect with Deacon Randy, email randy@kardiacounseling.com.