What if, then, instead of denying these compliments, we use them to further hone our ability to play the music of God’s Word? If we are good at, say, writing, then who are we to keep ourselves from getting closer to God by using this talent? Then the compliment does not become a boost to the ego, but rather, a confirmation that we are using our talent to further our very purpose in life, that is, to know and to worship God.
— General —
I noticed that a recurrent topic in Baha’i circles is that of compliments. Many have a tough time receiving compliments graciously, that is, with a simple, heartfelt thank you. Instead, we recoil; we shrug, chuckle, and deny the good others see in us – typically, by pointing out something negative about us, shedding light on this one negative aspect until it trumps the good. The rule in general is the larger the margin, the better.
But why? It could be that we are scared of the big, bad ego and, in order to tame it when its tentacles, tempted by the delicious compliments, reach out of their lair to claim more space, we beat it out as thoroughly as possible with self deprecation. Ironically enough, the very tool we use to keep our ego in check is, well, fed by the ego.
I recently wrote a post reflecting on the issue of controlling the insistent self with emotional violence. I wondered if the ego was something like the three headed dog in Harry Potter, rearing its heads and blocking us from our innermost, true, spiritual self. I also reflected that perhaps if we learn to play the music of God’s Word, translating It into action, our insistent self will be quieted and we will be successful in attaining our true spiritual selves, where God shines bright.