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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Good words may hide slight insults, so listen very closely

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I commented to my mother-in-law recently that her daughter sure was pretty (my wife, of course), and she said, "Well, you're handsome in your own way, too."

Handsome in your own way?

Handsome in your own way?

I had to laugh. I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not. Maybe it was almost a compliment. But barely.

My wife has been teasing me ever since telling me, "You are handsome in your own way."

People say things sometimes that you wonder if what they are saying is a compliment or not.

Like this one, "You are pretty in the face." I've heard people say that to women who may be overweight, but you know, pretty in the face.

That's really not that much of a compliment. Why not just tell that woman that she's pretty and leave it at that. I mean, pretty usually is in the face anyway.

I remember a guy in college telling a friend of mine, "You know, for a fat girl you don't sweat much."

She had a good right hook, and she wasn't afraid to use it. And use it she did.

Sometimes it's just better to let some things go unsaid. The writer of Proverbs 17:28 said, "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue."

I think it is a good thing to praise people when they deserve it, when they do something praiseworthy. And a well-placed compliment can lift someone's spirits. But we need to make sure it is not a left-handed compliment.

A left-handed compliment or a backhanded compliment many times is nothing more than an insult dressed up as a compliment.

Here are some other examples of possible left-handed compliments:

"Your children are better looking than I thought they would be."

"Those slacks are nice on you; they really do something for your figure."

"Your penmanship isn't too bad considering you're left-handed."

"You've proven to be a fairly good leader, for a woman."

"I like your hair. How long have you been dying it?"

A well-known back-handed compliment was offered by one of the Democratic presidential candidates toward Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign.

Joe Biden said something to the effect that Obama was very articulate or well-spoken for a black man.

Like I said, some things are just better left unsaid. It is interesting, though, that Biden is now Obama's V-P.

Well, I took a good close look at myself in the mirror this morning, and you know what? I am handsome in my own way, I have to agree.

Doug Dezotell can be contacted at dougmdezotell@yahoo.com.

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Doug Dezotell
Memories and Musings
Doug Dezotell is pastor of Cannon United Methodist Church and a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette.