It isn’t just fear, shame and judgment that are placed on me. I receive compliments too. People often thank me for something I’ve done or tell me how a certain blog post has impacted their lives. But it’s hard for me to take it in without imagining what they didn’t say. Does that mean they didn’t like the previous posts?
On other occasions, approval can go to my head, and all I think about is how I can get more.
I talked about that too in spiritual direction.
“I had my first day as the new intern facilitator of Living from the Heart,” I said.
Karen smiled. “How was it?”
“Wonderful. Jeff and Deb told me, more than once, how much they enjoy working with me. Ten years ago, Jeff’s book was the first one I read when I began my degree at Regent College and now we are colleagues.”
She waited for me to say more.
“I like these affirmations, and hold onto them tightly. I’m afraid someone is going to come along and say something that will knock my feet out from under me,” I said, feeling tears come.
“And when you imagine Jesus with you?” she asked.
I closed my eyes for a moment and got a sense of what Jesus felt. “He’s thrilled that people see what he sees.”
“So what will you do with their praise?”
Again I closed my eyes and asked Jesus that question. All of a sudden I knew. “It’s dessert,” I said. “I can’t make a steady diet of it, but I can enjoy every bite.”
“It’s sweet,” Karen added.
As I biked home from my spiritual direction session, I wondered how I would wear people’s accolades. I don’t want to reject them like the heavy coats of judgment and shame. But you can’t wear a chocolate ganache tartlet or crème caramel. I suppose compliments are more like hats or scarves. They’re not essential, but they highlight who we are.