A difficult puncture to intimacy in a relationship is when one’s wife cannot accept a compliment. Why, for men, do so many describe it to hurt so much? There may be some reasons why this might not feel great to hear, but the most significant factor appears that the statement lifts everyone else’s point of view above the ‘complimenter’.
If you are not entirely beautiful, then, in some way, you are saying to the one who has said so that their point of view is not as important as others.
Often today, we tend to make the issue into one that has to do with accepting self-love or self-care from ourselves. Yet, Jesus does not seem to assume this in scripture. He says,
“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31, ESV).
Jesus seems to have no problem in stating that we want good for ourselves, so much so that it is the way we should take care of others. The temptation Jesus subtly addresses here is that we want to treat ourselves better than those around us.
Loving Ourselves too Much
Our issue in loving others is not that we naturally love them too much, but we love ourselves too much naturally. We seek our approval, praise, and wants and needs before others (and namely God as the peak ‘other’ to serve His wants). It is not as though we never feel as though we do not like who we are, but shame, not belonging, feeling isolated or hated, ugly, these are all different than putting our desires behind that of God’s or putting the greater interest of others first.
Often, people pleasers will reference their constant efforts as means of producing more selflessness. Yet, people pleasers who constantly work for others and are always ‘yes, men’ often deplete their energy and do not prioritize their ability to do this well. They will compromise energy, strength, and all wisdom, for the immediacy of being appreciated and approved.
Yet, sometimes, the most loving thing we can do for others is not to always approve of others, and saying ‘no’ can sometimes afford us a chance to love wisely and thoroughly. It is not about being selfish for our own needs but about being self-aware and better equipped to love others well.
The real problem is a faith one. Accept the compliment, accept that He loves you and, in believing, has given you the greatest gift of all time: Himself and all His goodness. Accepting and surrendering this requires humility and changes our self-acceptance into a matter of believing his word over our self-narrative. What others, and even what you have to say, about yourself does not matter in the long run. What matters is what He has to say.
Far too often, we want to define our own lives.
If mom and dad say you are not in any trouble, they might have precedence in your home. But if the police tell you, you are indeed in some trouble; their definition will trump whatever is said at home. And if a judge declares they are not guilty, then so it is. But if a supreme court says they are guilty, then so it is. And if the President vetoes, then so it is. And if a King interrupts with his knights, then it can no longer be. But if an Emperor comes in his stead…Do you see my meaning?
Yet, who can define with more power than the One who decides how far the waves come and where the planets rotate… just as God said to Job, “when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?” (38:11, NIV). Or, “He made all the stars—the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky” (9:9, NLT).
God Gets Final Say
God gets the final say. If he wants to say to a glass of water, ‘you are a hippopotamus,’ its very reality will obey. No one can stay in his hands. If Jesus says, this water is wine, so it is.
He says in Jeremiah,
“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (32:27, NIV).
He says in Numbers,
“The LORD answered Moses, “Is the LORD’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you” (11:23, NIV).
He says through the Psalmist,
“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3, ESV).
And so if He says, then it is, and by grace, this Kingly and infinite great One has declared to those who have faith,
Song of Songs 4:7,
“You are altogether beautiful, my love;
there is no flaw in you.”
And, though the shepherd lover was dark and fearful that she perhaps lacked in some suitable presence or beauty for the all-desirable King Lover as she saw him, he still said that she was the “most beautiful among women.” He went as far as comparing all other women to her as being thorns amidst a single rose.
Do you know, dear beloved believer, God is defining you in this way because He now has given you this worth? Just as the lover in Song of Songs was dressed in the clothes given her from the King, so are we clothed in righteousness gifted by the King. So we are seen through this lens and by His giving and by His choice.
And look, dear, dressed for the wedding feast, you must accept this prodigious compliment, lest you offend the great One. Now… you wouldn’t want to do that, would you?
You see, it is in this trust and joy that He is made to look great, and we are strengthened to trust and follow. Just as a wife, knowing she is His ‘one,’ his’ most beautiful,’ is strengthened to trust and follow as He leads.
Beloved, revel in this. Song of Songs, yes, scripture itself, calls us to revel, to make time to meditate on and revel in these intimate joys.