How should I respond when praised?


Twenty-five years ago, I preached my first sermon, and it was a fiery, cliché-driven message about sex, drugs and effects of media. In my estimation, it was horrible. I kept that cassette for years, but after several moves cannot find it. Whether you preach, speak, teach, etc. we find ourselves in one of several moments:

  • Why did I even try?
  • If only I had … it would have been better.
  • Why did no one start chanting?
  • Other people think I did well.

Sometimes we do well; sometimes not. There are those moments when people want to come and tell you how wonderful you are or how great the speech/lesson/sermon was. For years, I struggled with what to do with well-meaning individuals who intended to encourage me on the way out of the church. I often overcompensated by confidence though I secretly desired praise and encouragement. Maybe you do too.

I wanted to hear those words. I wanted to feel the praise wash over me. I feigned humility. Early in ministry, I would feel deserving of this praise. I worked hard on the message. I would get in the car and ask my wife to critique. Yet, I only really wanted the praise not the critique part. I was not sure of myself because I wasn't truly resting in Him, but in my own ability.

King David, after a significant military victory, was presented with many gifts of gold, silver and bronze. These gifts were given by another king who had received relief as a result of this victory. Maybe David thought the victory wasn't that spectacular. Maybe he thought the gift should be more. Maybe he thought the gift was more than the victory was worth. What did he do? He dedicated all these gifts to God. So, what can we learn from this episode in David's life?

People will give you gifts of praise and you should receive them with grace.

Allow people to give you this verbal, or tangible, blessing for their benefit. To cut them off is to be rude. Let them give the blessing for it is theirs to give. Be gracious and kind and patient.

Show appreciation. Give thanks. Smile and say thank you.

Stay humble. If we let the praise go to our head we have failed already.

Here are a few phrases to use:

  • "Thank you. You are very kind."
  • "I appreciate this. Thank you."
  • "How did God speak to you?"

In these ways you, as the recipient, are being gracious, but not greedy. You are receiving this blessing, showing appreciation and inviting a conversation. Since your life is not your own, then the praise and blessing being given should be dedicated to God. How else could you respond that makes this more about God than our own emotional deficits? Share your suggestions with us below.

Summers is the lead pastor at Coulter Road Baptist Church in Amarillo, TX. He and his wife, Dulcie, have two children: Samuel and Isabella. To read more from Summers, please visit his personal blog, The Intersect, or follow him on Twitter @aaronwsummers.

Related articles: Tribute to MLK: The Heart of Black Preaching, a Prophetic Word / Gregory discusses preaching to persuade / Evaluations within your church