Monday, January 3, 2011

Thanks, But That's Not a Compliment

After testifying for the first time in awhile yesterday, I was told by a woman in our ward that I was a "deep thinker". My first gut reaction was not positive (though naturally I covered this fairly graciously, knowing her intent was to compliment and not insult.) After thinking about it for some time, I realized a few reasons why I am not complimented by this.

First, I think no more deeply than anyone else. I spend far too much time on trivialities of daily life, and struggles with things I should have already mastered.

Second, by labeling me a "deep thinker", people are subconsciously excusing themselves from pondering over gospel topics. They are saying, essentially, that I think about the gospel because that is what I am, not because that is what I choose to do.

Lastly, I have also been labeled a "Kolob chaser" by a few in my ward. (Although the term is my words, not theirs.) As a person who chases after the so-called "deep doctrines", which in my mind are anything but deep, I am easily ignored as being too caught up in non-essentials, too "scholastic". This has cost me dearly at times, and probably will again in the future. All that is beside the fact that there are many, many more people historically and doctrinally educated than I am.

The truth is I really don't care too much about where Kolob is, how Heavenly Mother fits into the grander scheme of things, or how exactly Mary conceived Jesus. I don't do more than occasionally briefly speculate on such things. I try not to spend too much time on them because I figure that my spirit already knows them, they are just hidden behind the veil of mortality. I'm not particularly interested in wasting my time trying to guess at things I must already know or will more accurately learn after this life, and things that have little bearing on my duties to God here in mortality.

I do, however, take the gospel very seriously. I spend a lot of time self-analyzing and looking for ways to bring myself in closer alignment with God, ways to listen and respond better to the Spirit, ways to purge myself of resentment and other dark feelings before they become habits. That is no more than any disciple of Christ does. It is not particularly special or laudable.

A much better compliment to me would be something along the lines of, "you must really love the Lord." Because I want to. That is my life and my goal, however imperfectly I pursue it. I want to love the Lord not merely through my emotions, but through my actions, in a way that glorifies and serves Him.

I want to be someone in whom He can be "well pleased." That would be a compliment indeed.


  1. SilverRain, there is nothing wrong with being a deep thinker- I would take it as a compliment. You can be a deep thinker AND love the Lord. And since it is important to you, I am sure He is well pleased!

  2. SR, I agree with Jim.

    Further, I think there's a certain graciousness to accepting a compliment, however awkwardly offered.

    But that said, I think you're right: we'd rather hear, "It sounds like you've thought deeply about this..." than be labeled in one way or another. I'll have to remember that the next time I try to compliment someone.

  3. This is why I almost never go beyond, "Thank you. That was wonderful." when I compliment someone on a comment or a talk. It's hard to know how the other person will take more than that, and it says everything that needs to be said.

    It's also why I try hard to just say thanks when someone compliments me - no matter how they do it. As you said, SR, the person genuinely is offering a compliment, so I try hard to remember that and accept it graciously.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I've been similarly labeled in my ward.

  5. You're both right, which is why I thanked her rather than being as churlish as I felt.

    The problem, Jim, is that there IS something wrong with being a deep thinker according to some. That perception, as I mentioned, has cost me. Also, I feel it is rather like labeling parts of scripture as "the Isaiah chapters" or "the war chapters", creating an excuse not to read or think about what is in them. I do not want to be used as a vehicle for that.

    And Paul, I'd rather not even have the "you've thought deeply" comment, though that is certainly less of a problem to me. It's not the label, exactly, that's the problem, it's the perception and excuses that come with the label. I feel similarly about being told I'm smart.

    To me, "smart" is as meaningless as "deep thinker".

    I think I'd rather hear something along the lines of, "Thank you for your comment. You know, it got me thinking about ______ in my life. I really appreciate that. Have you ever thought about _____?" Something that engenders uplifting and productive conversation.

  6. Well, I can't argue with your ideal comment; that would be wonderul. I think, however, some people may be impressed that others think carefully even when they themselves don't. People have different gifts, after all.

    I was intrigued by your mention of the Isaiah chapters & war chapters. I remember when I was young, the focus was just on getting people to read the whole Book of Mormon because many had not (even long-time members). I remember when I finally sat down to read more carefully in the Isaiah chapters, I found myself wondering what all the big deal was. They weren't so hard to follow, after all. But I, too, had hidden behind that label for some time before that.

  7. Honestly, and i mean this from a place of love (as you know), sometimes you are a bit over the heads of those around you. I was even a bit imitated when you declared the Isiah was your favorite prophet and you could quote him.

    But that is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it can be quite a blessing. it has always caused me to think a bit more, work a bit harder. It also made me love you more.

  8. Aw, thanks Robin. Honestly, I've toned it down a great deal from then. Partially because I am not very good at having an opinion any more, but mostly because I've learned how little I really understand.

    Do you remember that talk by Elder Holland to our mission? He illustrated that Christ taught by meeting people where they are and then elevating them higher. That totally changed the way I thought about teaching and about scripture. I've tried hard to emulate more of that.

    I think (while acknowledging I might be wrong) that there was really nothing about my testimony that was over the head of anyone. Though I don't remember all that I said, from what I remember, I only referred to one of Elder Holland's other talks about each of us having to go through our own personal Gethsemane, and how the condescension of Christ has made Him into the kind of God I can worship gladly. Sort of a spin on my Christmas post here, actually, because it's been on my mind a lot lately.

    I suppose I feel really simple lately, not deep at all, and that is part of why it grates on me.

    But I admit the biggest part is because being labeled a Kolob chaser has led to my being dismissed as of little value to the Church by my priesthood leadership. I've been labeled a project, teetering on the brink of apostasy.

    And you know me well enough to know how well that sits with me. This "deep thinking" label just seems to be more of the same; more example of how they persist in labeling me as so very different from them, when I'm not. Not really.

    At least, I'm really tired of being seen as different than anyone else. I'm not, except perhaps for being a bit more serious than many. It's the German in me, I suppose.

  9. "But I admit the biggest part is because being labeled a Kolob chaser has led to my being dismissed as of little value to the Church by my priesthood leadership."

    That's really a shame.

  10. If you're a project teetering on the edge of apostasy ... I actually find this a little stunning.

  11. I have gotten similar comments, or about being intelligent... for a stay at home mom. Intended to compliment but really show the true colors of those giving the compliment.

    As far as the apostasy side of it - where I live your faithfulness is measured more by your willingness to work for the Lord (AKA callings) than the fact that you admit questions and seek answers. Either way, I think work- in nursery or the stake, or in your mind wrestling with ideas- shows where your heart lies. Obviously if you expend efforts to understand the doctrine then your heart is with the Lord, trying to understand his ways.

  12. I would rather think of it as you've observed something worth thinking.

  13. There is a reason we are taught stick to the basics and leave the Kolob chasing for a latter day. Love is the most basic of all teachings. If you love people and feel a connection to them, your first reaction is not one of offence. It is my belief (I mean this with love) that you need to lean to stick to the basics for a while longer. It seam to me that you need a stronger foundation before you build your tower any higher.

  14. Thanks for your concern, Anonymous, but if you read the OP, you'll note that I do. I have been labeled a Kolob chaser not because I'm concerned with things like Kolob, etc, but because I think about and try to apply things like faith, sacrifice, charity.

    If you read my blog enough, I hope that is self-evident.

  15. SilverRain,
    I have read many of your posts, over the shoulder of my spouse anyway. I see were you’re thinking about things like faith, sacrifice and charity and I truly believe you have good intentions. Sometimes though, when were just a little of course, we end up so very far from our destination. It’s seems that your first reaction is often one of offence. If you saw people with love, thought of them as mostly good, with good intentions, your first reactions would be a different one. I have good intentions in writing you.

  16. Anonymous, you've confused me. It seems to me that you're saying that 1) I think too much about Kolob doctrines, and 2) I am easily offended because I don't love people.

    Taking what you say as truth, that you have good intentions and are criticizing me out of love, then please help me see what I am doing that gives you those impressions.

  17. I’m saying both.

    I would like to clarify what I meant by Kolob chasing. You said “I have also been labeled a "Kolob chaser" by a few in my ward. (Although the term is my words, not theirs.) As a person who chases after the so-called "deep doctrines"”. When I said “leave the Kolob chasing for a latter day” I meant leave anything deeper then the basics of love, for a bit latter in your life.

    Being offended when someone was attempting a compliment, is not showing the love Christ. Christ’s love is the foundation for everything, as you know from the over used analogy. Build to high on a week foundation and you’ll find failure.

    You’re faking it, until you make it right now. Which is better then nothing.

    Let me ask you a few things.
    Do you enjoy meeting new people, being social, face-to-face interaction?

    If not, Why?

  18. Anonymous, I wasn't "offended" by the woman in the OP. You'll note that all I said was that my first reaction wasn't positive. It wasn't that I was offended, I was disappointed to be once again misread.

    You're saying I don't possess the love of Christ because it hurts me to be dismissed as too deep of a thinker, as someone who doesn't care enough about the simple and beautiful truths of the Gospel?

    Strangely, you are accusing me of the exact same thing.

    The answer to your question is not a simple one. I like to meet new people in general because I find it interesting. If you were to meet me in person, you'd probably not have the least clue that there is any part of me that doesn't enjoy it because when I find myself in such situations, I choose to focus on what I like. Liking to meet people is my personality's base state, it's my natural reaction.

    I also dislike getting out and meeting people in large part because I am recently getting out of an abusive marriage. I lived in a world where talking about other people provoked instant jealousy, and spending time with them was scorned and used to prove that I was not a loving enough wife. Five years may not seem long, but it was long enough to give me an unhealthy dose of fear.

    Also, I have come to believe in my heart that I am a burden on the people around me, however my logical mind tries to override that conviction. I have been taught in my marriage (which played upon insecurities that were already there) that I am socially awkward, and constantly offending the people around me. I am scared of making mistakes and causing offense when I see people face-to-face.

    Finally, as an abuse survivor, I know that I attract abusers, and like an alcoholic, have to be extremely vigilant as to who I let in. This is not only my own conclusion, as the Lord Himself has warned me to do just that. It is not a warning I can take lightly any more, not when I have had my life affected so greatly because I was not as careful as I should have been.

  19. SilverRain,

    I love you.

    That is all. (for today, anyway)


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