Already you are wondering if I have any grasp on the English language I am sure just by the title of this post.  No, this word (The blog’s title) is not in the dictionary, but in the Morris house, it is understood alongside other words such as “availabiliwality”, and “confusational”.  We love to make up new words.

It was on a long drive with my son Chad that the word “decomplimentation” came into existence.  After my son, attempting to bribe me into buying him something by telling me I was the best mother in the world, and that I was the most beautiful of all, had to change his strategy when I was unrelenting.  It was all in good fun, mind you, and we both laughed about it as he said, “Okay, if that is not going to work, the “decomplimentation” will begin in 3…2…1.”  Then he said I was “the nerdiest mom in the world”, and my feet “smelled like cheese.”  Compliments turned to insults (in a funny way in this case.)

Decomplimentation.  I’ve thought a lot about that word, and discovered a definition for it that I have observed. Decomplimentation could be defined as:  Complimenting a person in a way that keeps them from feeling good about the compliment.  For example:  “You are such a good cook.  I really hate that.” or “Well, you always were the favorite….(sigh…awkward silence…).  Or “I like you now, but I would have hated you in high school.”  You could probably insert your own examples here too.  (I have too many to list).

Decomplimentation can come from anywhere–parents “Well, at least your good at something. You had me worried for awhile.” Or siblings:  “You got all of the smart genes.  I just got your hand-me-downs.”  Friends:  “Of course you travel!  Let’s just call you ‘been there, done that.'”

Decomplimentation has less to do with the compliment than it has to do with the insecurities or jealousies of the one speaking them.  When a genuine compliment just can’t be delivered and left on the doorstep, decomplimentation ensues.  The person decomplimenting must show you that your success or happiness, or skill set causes them to feel small, insignificant, overshadowed, overlooked, or unnecessary.  And while it is human nature to compare ourselves to others, it is the surest way to live a small life.

I have to admit, I am a person who keeps a lot of good news to herself.  If something great happens to me or people close to me, you might not see me post it on Facebook.  Instead, I reserve those things in my heart and share them with people who do not use decomplimentation.  I know which individuals will take that information and turn it back to me in such a way that I feel badly for having something good happen in my life.  It sucks the joy right out of me when they do.  At the same time, I seek out my cheerleaders, and encouragers. –the ones who say “That’s awesome!! I can’t believe that happened!” or “Tell me all about it!  That sounds so good!”  These people know how to encourage me and fuel my passions.

For many years, after being “decomplimented” by someone, I would spend the next several minutes (or hours) trying to build up the self-esteem of the person who just spoke to me.  “No–you’re smart too!  I mean look at the business you developed, and how you train all of those employees…” or I try the other approach which is making myself smaller so that they feel good about me again–“Oh, I’m not really that good, its just that no one has discovered it yet, so my disguise must be working.” I have found that this drains the life right out of me, and causes me to lose confidence in who God made me to be. My time was spent expending a lot of energy either defending myself, disguising myself, or trying to buoy up the person in front of me so that their words didn’t sting.



Galatians 6:4-5 says “Each one should test their own actions.  Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”

If you are one on the receiving end of “decomplimentation”, here is what I suggest:  Let the comments fall to the ground after they have been spoken.  You don’t need to make the other person feel better about themselves in order to make their words less painful.  They chose their words, they can be responsible for them.  If, however, you are on the receiving end of these hurtful words over and over by someone, you may need to set aside a time to speak with them to let them know how their words hurt you or make you feel. Oftentimes people who decompliment don’t even know they are doing it, often it is a bad habit they have been doing since childhood.  If you want to respond to someone’s “decomplimentation”, respond in the “opposite spirit”.  When someone says to me “You are really good at such and such, and I can’t stand it…” I choose to give them a genuine compliment like “I really love this about you..(fill in the blank).”  No clauses, stings, snide remarks, or martyrdom.

Learn to celebrate others.  Give genuine compliments when you feel them and end them with a period before you are tempted to add anything else.  And when you are jealous, (and we all are from time to time), take that to God and talk to Him about it.  Allow the Lord to show you your strengths, and what He has put in you, and use them for His glory.

All of us are created unique in God’s image with purpose.  God has planned for all of us to have joy in being who He made us to be.  He Himself delights in us and who we are.  So we can’t live an abundant life if we spend it comparing ourselves with someone else.  No, we need to go to God with our insecurities and ask the Holy Spirit to give us courage to be who we were created to be.  Then, BE THAT PERSON!

1 Thessalonians 5:11a says:  “Encourage one another and build each other up…”

Hebrews 3:13

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “today”, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

There are those of us who “decompliment” and there are those of us who deflect compliments when they are genuinely given.  I’ll talk more about the deflectors in my next blog.

My prayer for you today is to find your value in God alone.  He who created you with purpose, passion, gifts and talents, has also made a way for you to enjoy Him fully while enjoying who He made YOU to be.  Keep growing.  Keep shining.

Have you ever been decomplimented?  How did you respond?

Are you a decomplimenter?  How could you choose your words differently?

2013-06-01 09.24.11


5 thoughts on “Decomplimentation

  1. Cate,

    Thank you for this post.  I must confess that I’m a “decomplimenter”.  I know that words are VERY powerful in building up or tearing down someone.  It makes me a bit sad that I fell into this word trap of complimenting someone but then negating it.  On the flip side, I know now what I’m saying wrong and will start changing how I say a compliment, what I say, and genuinely mean it.

    I would like to post your blog on my Facebook page.  Would you mind my doing that?

    Thanks again for writing this.  I will definitely change from here on out. 🙂


    1. I don’t mind at all Bryan if you repost it.
      Sometimes our comments are habits, and we don’t realize what we are saying, or how it makes the other person feel. Sometimes being truthful even with genuine compliments makes us uncomfortable, but hopefully we’ll all get better at it.

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