After preaching what I considered the perfect sermon, one of the congregants came up to me with a big smile and shook my hand and said, "Well, if nothing else, you sure looked like you were enjoying yourself up there!"
I wasn't exactly sure what he meant by that, but I assumed it wasn't good.
Then later it dawned on me. I had been a victim of the back-handed-left-handed compliment. Or BHLHC.
The BHLHC is actually a put-down disguised as a compliment. I get 'em all the time from people.
"I saw one of your old sermons the other day on YouTube, Preacher. It was just great! Boy, it's been a while, hasn't it?!"
"Thank you for your sermon this morning, Preacher. I really needed the sleep."
But Preachers aren't the only ones to suffer the BHLHC.
Ever shown someone your driver's license photo? They look at it and say, "That's YOU?! No way!!!"
"This picture doesn't look anything like you. It's SOOO good!"
Or how about:
Them: "You look GREAT for 50."
You: "Thanks. I'm 35."
While eating a meal you cooked for your wife she says, "No, it's good. Really! Plus that, I'm not that hungry."
"Oh, your brother is so HANDSOME! I'd never guess you two were related."
After playing somebody an original tune you wrote on your kazoo they think for a moment and then say, "That was so inspiring. I love watching people really try."
Or worse: "Talent isn't everything. You've got friends."
Or worse: "You know who's a REALLY good kazoo player..."
Or worse: "You looked like you were really enjoying yourself up there!"
Or how about this. After you work hard for a year, losing a bunch of weight, all you ever hear from people for the next year is, "Wow! You don't look like the same person! You were SOOO disgusting before! No, really. Jabba the Hut had nothin' on you. You were HUGE!"
I've always liked this one:
"You are a great example of what NOT to do in life."
THEM: "Your new girlfriend is SO much sweeter than you're old girlfriend."
YOU: "This IS my old girlfriend."
"Of course I like you. Looks and intelligence just aren't that important to me."
Or these great ones:
"You're gonna love this guy, he's like a cute Frankenstein."
"But Honey, I LIKE you fat."
"I don't care what other people say, you...are...SMART."
"You're personality makes you more handsome."
"You have such a pretty face, the rest doesn't matter."
"You are the most prolific, mediocre writer I know."
My own mother looked at me when I was first born and said, "Oh, look! What a pretty tan my baby has!"
I had yellow jaundice.
The Asian-American comedian Joy Koy has a great one: "Oh you're Asian! I LOVE Orange Chicken!"
The list is never-ending. Sometimes when people offer up these gems, it's back-handed, and meant to hurt. But many times I think people are really trying to give a compliment and just mess it up.
I'm good either way. That's because I know I can't control what comes out of anyone's else's mouth, and more importantly I am naturally what's called: Preacher Positive.
Preacher Positive makes me unstoppable. With it, I can take any compliment (good or bad, back-handed or otherwise) and instantly turn it to my advantage. Suddenly I realize:
I DO look better than my driver's license picture. That's GOOD news.
I WAS disgustingly fat. Now I'm not. GOOD!
My wife IS rarely hungry. Lucky me.
I DO look great for 91. Hooray!
I AM smarter and more talented and more handsome than people think I am. Take THAT!
I WAS having a good time up there preaching a prolific, mediocre sermon. Nanny, nanny, poo, poo.
Whenever I employ Preacher Positivity I always win. It's devastating. It keeps me from going off the nasty, dark paths of negativity that can lead to nowhere. Instead, I become unstoppable.
Suddenly whatever compliment was hidden in the back-handed one I am able to extract and use for good. And in the end that's always more important than trying to control what comes out of anybody's mouth.
Preacher Positivity...saves you every time.
As together we stand and sing.