Give More Compliments
People like compliments. They like to be praised. I always enjoyed receiving praise from my teachers. I like when my wife tells me I’ve done something well. As Christians, we fight the sin of pride and the urge to desire human praise in a way that leads to it. But as defenders of Catholic Christian ideas, we should give praise and compliments to those who disagree with us.
Practical and theological reasons abound.
Catholic Christians believe very unpopular ideas. You plan to defend Catholic Christian ideas. Therefore, you will defend very unpopular ideas. Don’t let that keep you from discussing tough topics. Remember, truth is not a popularity contest.
When you compliment or praise someone during a discussion, a few things may happen:
- You soften the person; negative emotions toward unpopular ideas fail to overpower them.
- They avoid straw man critiques.
- Civility pervades the discussion.
- Your ideas receive a genuine hearing.
- They are reluctant to disagree maliciously or unfairly.
Now, I say those things may happen. They may not. But by complimenting your discussion partner, you will increase the likelihood of all those things. Put away the grandstanding and snarky comebacks. They are not useful tools in a dialogue aimed at truth.
We are talking to people made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). They have intrinsic moral value as human beings and deserve our respect. Moreover, we are commanded to love our neighbors (John 13:34). One way to express love is to speak the truth. Another way is to give genuine compliments and praise.
It’s not hard to find compliments to give. Especially when you consider the types of dialogue that go on today. Consider your average political debate on television or Facebook discussion on a tough topic. Emotions and insults fly everywhere. By pausing to compliment others, you will stand out.
Here are a few quick ways to compliment someone who disagrees with you on a tough topic:
- From that objection, I can tell you’ve spend time studying the issue and I want to commend that.
- Thanks for hearing me out and giving such an intelligent response. This will be a good discussion.
Praise a Noble Desire
Sometimes, you can praise the desire implicit in their objection. When discussing abortion, someone might say, “The problem is that if abortion is made illegal, women are going to be dying in back alley abortions. Abortion won’t be stopped. It will just become way more dangerous.”
You can reply: I recognize your desire to protect women and keep them healthy and safe. And I want you to know I think that is a noble desire. You can then go on to respond to the objection.
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. And grace builds on this natural truth. As Catholic Christians, we recognize conversion is wrought by the Holy Spirit. Compliments can lead others to let down their walls. When the walls are lowered, the Spirit of God might just rush in.
For more on the power of kindness, check out this book!