This fall, we were watching “The Voice” singing competition during the blind auditions stage in which the contestant sings with the judges’ backs turned. Singer Tamara Jade easily convinced all four coaches to turn around and request that she become a member of their teams. When coach Kelly Clarkson made her pitch to Jade, she said, “You’re incredible. … You’re going to be in the finale.” Jade was obviously flabbergasted that someone of Clarkson’s caliber would praise her in such high terms, but instead of merely saying thank you, Jade said, “I receive that.”
Her response shocked and delighted me. When Clarkson paid Jade a compliment, she deliberately chose to accept the positive energy and take it into her mind and spirit. I thought, I didn’t even know someone could do that. But Jade’s use of the phrase felt right.
I don’t always take compliments well. I don’t think I’m alone in this way. If someone says something nice, instead of relishing the compliment, we deflect by redirecting the conversation. Or we may even reject the kind words by shaking our heads or being self-deprecating in response. Even if we express our appreciation, we don’t always believe others when they praise us. We may think “if they only knew me” or “they’re just being nice” or “that’s not true” in response.
Of course, if we hear a negative comment, we tend to take it to heart. If someone makes an off-hand remark that they don’t necessarily intend to be hurtful, we still accept it as truth. Even if the person is not someone we trust, we may give credence to their negativity. We ruminate on the hurtful words, analyze them, relive them, and believe them. We find it much harder to dispel the bad. Unfortunately, we allow the negative to infiltrate our beliefs about ourselves.
In Ephesians, the apostle Paul said, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:1-2. We have each received a calling from God. Some of us may know with specific detail what God has called us to do in life, but rest assured all of us have a larger, more general calling to love and help others. We serve God by loving God’s people.
Perhaps, we can judge whether to accept the criticism others aim at us by deciding whether it helps us live a life worthy of the calling we’ve received. If the negativity only serves to tear us down and makes us doubt our worthiness, then we should reject it. But we can and should accept the positive feedback we receive from others. God loves us and values us beyond measure. God works through people, so maybe the encouraging words from others allows God to communicate our value to us. If we can truly believe the best about ourselves, we will then feel more confident. When we embrace God’s love, when we accept love from people, when we love ourselves, we will feel free to share love with other people.
I want to emulate Tamara Jade’s attitude. When someone tells me something positive about myself, I will say thank you and then think, “I receive that.” In so doing, I embrace God’s calling to love myself and love others. We can all choose to “receive” the positive energy others give us and use it to further God’s work in the world.