Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Girls, we need your help

The other night I went to eat with some friends (before we went to see Elizabethtown) and a discussion came up about how guys compliment girls. Girls, we need your help...

Okay, so a basic characteristic that is common to most girls is starting to be understood; that they need to be reminded regularly that they are beautiful, sweet, kind, intelligent, etc, because of the fact that every day they are being bombarded by tv, magazines, and ads about the ways that they are "not good enough" or don't measure up to societal standards.

Now, here's the problem we encounter as men: As a godly man and desiring to be a good example to our female friends of how a gentleman should treat them and respect them, how are we to approach the whole complimenting aspect of our friendships?

See, this is where it gets tricky: we know that in order to "guard the hearts" of the girls we're friends with, we can't be too loose with compliments, because that will win them over, to an extent, and maybe even to a dangerous extent where they begin to have unexpected romantic feelings or whatever. So how do we, as guys, encourage and build up the self-esteem of the girls around us, expressing that we appreciate them, yet without them thinking we're doing that because of alterior motives?

How is a Christian man to compliment his female friends without sounding shallow or dishonest, yet in a way that doesn't lead them on?

Guys who believe they have something to add are welcome to comment as well.


Blogger Baconlover said...

I think it's completely cool for a guy to compliment his friends, as long as the guy is being honest and sincere. But don't limit your compliments to girls - compliment your guy friends too! Who said guys don't need a little pick-me-up every now and then? Also, don't limit the compliments to physical appearances - everyone likes to hear when they've done something well, whether it was a solo or a poem or a music video.

As far as worrying about making the girls feel attracted to you, it takes a lot more than a couple of compliments to get a girl's heart fluttering. And who cares if a girl friend of yours gets a little crush? Crushes among friends are usually what make male-female friendships work best. Besides, guys and girls choose friends of the opposite sex that they're somewhat attracted to anyway, so there's bound to be a little crushing going on. And who knows, maybe that friend will turn into your husband or wife, like it did for me and Scott.

Wed Oct 19, 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger bethy31 said...

Brother, let me help you OUT! A compliment in itself is not an indication of romantic interest. (at least not for most well-adjusted women, you must use discretion here) For instance, my boss says he likes my hair and I know he's married with three children and so I go, "Wow, thanks Lee." and I don't think anymore about it.

When a compliment becomes confusing is when corresponding behavior is confusing. If you are constantly making an effort to come and talk to me, focus on me in social situations, email me and even call me occasionally and then you compliment me, you are involving my heart and being ambiguous.

If you are a guy friend and I see you in group situations but you do not focus on me or continually seek me out to dominate the group time by just talking to can compliment me and I just think, 'Wow, that was nice of Jonathan...what a great friend' and not 'Jonathan must like me.'

The other thing that gets confusing to some women is complimenting them while commenting on something you find attractive in people you date or would marry. For instance, "I really like girls with blue eyes. You have beautiful blue eyes." Confusing and possibly could get the heart involved.

I think the whole 'getting the heart' involved thing happens when you aren't really sure how you feel about a girl. The girls you clearly don't like tend to know. The girls you clearly like tend to know. It's the ones you aren't really sure about - you think they are cute and women of God but not really sure if you wanna go there - and that's when things get sticky cuz most men try to have their cake and eat it too by dominating social time, emailing, calling and complimenting but never moving forward and that's a recipe for heart disaster. Very wordy but a topic I've encountered hundreds of times in my time here in young adult world.

My theory now is that if you aren't asking me out or pursuing, I'm going to assume you are complimenting me as a friend and move on...but most girls tend to want to read the signs..and so the above are some confusing and not so confusing signs!

Wed Oct 19, 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Juliana said...

I agree with all of the above...and I would also say something Alistair Begg once said. He said, speaking to parents, that is was so much more important to build up their children's CHARACTER verses their children's self-esteem through praise of the physical. I think the same thing could be said to men. Men, if you really want to build up the women around you, be them girlfriends, wives, or friends--seek out their character and build them up to be women of God who will then be much more equipped to combat the societal sterotype that says our worth should be wrapped up in the outside. Anyway--my two cents!

Wed Oct 19, 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Jeannine said...

whew. bethy was pretty in depth...and i agree.

but i'll add my own thoughts as well. i think the frequency of compliments has a lot to do with it...and the way they're given. i mean, if a guy is dishing out compliments multiple times in a conversation or even in a day, then the girl is likely to assume that he is interested in her. body language has a lot to do with it as well. gazing into her eyes as you say a really sweet compliment would obviously be the wrong thing to do if you're not interested in her.

if you are giving a sincere compliment to a platonic friend, be won't come off as shallow or dishonest. however, if you spend a lot of one-on-one time with her and hanging out with her in small groups and such, a simple compliment may be interpreted wrong because she wants to see it that way. you can most likely tell if a girl has taken a sudden interest. just use discretion.

and i just want to say, its a two-way street.

Wed Oct 19, 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

This is kind of about complimenting... and kind of other advice...

Just keep it simple in order to guard our hearts- DON'T KEEP US WONDERING! Of course, as girls, we 'read into things' and that is something that we have to remind ourselves not to do.

But... If, guys would truely be honest and not 'beat around the bush' but seek the Lord and when they know that they should persue a woman (and I mean for a serious relationship)... then go for it! Don't just 'send signals'... we need it straight forward- 'Yes, I do like you and Yes, I do want to persue you'. (And then you have to actually persue her!!) So... if that is done- then if a guy compliments us-we can take it at that- a compliment and nothing more.

We are to encourage one another and build eachother up- so Yes.. do compliment! But if you are complimenting in order to tell a girl you are interested... don't do that only!! You need to tell her upfront so she is not left wondering. I agree with everything Bethy says... I think most girls read into things- but that is really their fault. If all you have done is paid her a compliment and all of a sudden she has you all married- then that is her that needs to change the way she takes compliments not you.

Bottom line- if you want to persue a woman- just tell her and if you don't then she shouldn't be allowing her mind to wonder without the initiation from you. Easier said than done.

These are just things I am learning as a woman of the Lord- it is not my job whatsoever to initiate anything! That is the mans responsibility and it shouldn't be taken lightly. (That is one reason I am glad I am a girl!)

And by all means- don't call a girl, e-mail her often, take her out to eat and just take a lot of 'alone time together'- if you don't intend to persue her! (That is not guarding her heart!) You don't have that right!! As a friend- treat her with the upmost respect- treat her as she is... not yours (Until of course you make that commitment to marry her)... and don't tell her you love her until you are prepared to take out a ring and propose right then and there!

I know you didn't ask for all of that- but these are things I think can help us as women. I am sure as a guy it is hard to know how to guard a womans heart... treat us like you would even if you were married (to another woman). That is the kind of relationships you should have with people of the opposite sex until you are in a relationship intended for marriage.

How can women guard guy's hearts? I am sure it is different! I would love to hear that...

Wed Oct 19, 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Amy - That will be my next post!

In the meantime, please continue this advice column. I've already spoken with guy friends who've read this blog posting and the comments, and said that they really appreciate all of your advice. I agree, it's very insightful. Thanks to all of you who are taking the time to help us become better men!

Wed Oct 19, 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Jeannine said...

what was that all about?

anyway, i just want to say that amy worded it very nicely as well. especially with the whole making it clear that you are pursuing or not

Wed Oct 19, 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

I have no idea what that was all about Jeannine, which is why I deleted it. Maybe a spammer getting through the system?

Wed Oct 19, 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger Dr. C. August McGillicutty said...

I think the best way to compliment a woman is to walk up to her and just start grabbing all over her.

Thu Oct 20, 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

Bethy and Amy- I think we are kindred spirits (can I say that as a Christian?). :) I think you have expressed much wisdom and have spoken to the heart of the matter for many women. We as women are responsible for guarding our hearts and not assuming that every kind godly man is after us just because he pays sincere and unambiguous compliments and enjoys our friendship. On the other hand, men must use discernment and search their hearts for their MOTIVES of complimenting and being attentive to their friends of the opposite sex. Is it to spur that person on toward love and good works, or are you enjoying the emotional high of them returning attention to boost personal ego or reputation? Girls are not exempt from this either - how often do we are women do/say things to cause men to notice us and soothe our fragile self esteem? (I speak as a girl who has been guilty of this myself.)

I think the key for men and women is motive - and that the motive is clearly portrayed in the words used and the actions that follow them.

Good topic, Jonathan :)

Thu Oct 20, 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger maltman1 said...

As much as I'd like to agree with the Good Doctor (and as much as I love his picture and wish it were my own), i've found that his approach has only gotten ME into trouble. :)

No, seriously, as a married man, I find that I am constantly limiting my compliments to women. I make far fewer compliments now than I ever did as a single man. I think that this is probably because of the motivation behind my compliments and my process of settling into my Married Identity. (Warning: Skip ahead now to avoid further psychobabble!) What I mean is that as a single man with no dating prospects I was constantly "putting out feelers" to see who might be "in" to me. Can you say "misunderstanding the masculine heart"? I couldn't see how this was wrong or a denial of becoming the man that God wanted me to be. But, to quote amy:

"Bottom line- if you want to persue a woman- just tell her and if you don't then she shouldn't be allowing her mind to wonder without the initiation from you.
...It is not [a woman's] job whatsoever to initiate anything! That is the mans responsibility and it shouldn't be taken lightly."

Amy also included the phrase "easier said than done"...and wow! was she right?! (John Eldredge, of course, would probably agree.) Anyway, now that I'm married I can look back with 20/20 hindsight and I ask myself, "Why did I bother putting out all those 'feelers'?" I'm pretty sure it was because I was looking for acceptance and affirmation in any way possible. I wanted a "golden-haired woman" (Eldredge) on my arm to make me feel like a man. If she wouldn't be "mine", then I at least wanted to string along our friendship, denying to myself the whole time that I didn't have a chance with her or that I was just in it for the affirmation. Here's the oft repeated, rarely fully recognized truth (that I'm still learning):

When your life (not just your major decisions) is built on Christ, then you are running to Him for whatever you need. Only then is He your foundation.

So, my question to myself becomes, "am i really built on Christ if I'm putting out feelers to lots of girls or clinging to one impossible relationship for my affirmation and support?" nope. I've become a lot more settled emotionally since I've been married (2 yrs), but I still need affirmation...I'm an affirmation junkie. I'm slowly learning that this all has to come from Christ, and not some girl. I'm overly cautious of seeking affirmation from any woman other than Carolyn, but I probably still seek too much from her. I rarely compliment any ladies, but the closer I get to God, the more I realize that it's very OK to compliment, but WATCH YOURSELF! Not too much, not too intimately, and not to get affirmation. For instance, there's a lady I work with who is beautiful, but obviously running from the Lord and especially the Church. Her name means "image of God", she says sarcastically, but she has no idea of the Love of God that could make her feel the beautiful presence of God all in and throughout her. She would never understand my compliments as anything other than flirting, so I have to really limit myself. I want to tell her how beautiful God thinks she is, but I think all that I can do now it pray for her with my wife.

Seek Him daily and let Him fill you...because we all leak.

Marty Altman

OK, obvious plug:
interested in ministering to troubled children and teens? check out

or click on "Martin" on Jonathan's page. Help me out with some advice, opinions or contacts. I'm especially looking for youth groups with a focus on (or large number of) troubled kids.

Thu Oct 20, 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Scooter said...

Forget about complimenting girls, J-Man. If you want girls to compliment you (and hit on you), then just buy a wedding band. I've told you that before, and it's so true. Before I was married, girls never paid me much attention. Now I always have girls trying to flirt with me when they see my wedding ring or find out that I'm married (or, at least, I think they are; Sara says they are). I think it's something about commitment that turns some girls on, or they let their guards down around me because they know I'm "safe" and aren't trying to go after them.

I know that you're looking for a future-wife (from your other posts, and just from knowing you for several years), so I say get a wedding ring. After all, the best way to start a life-long committed relationship is with deception!

Thu Oct 20, 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

HA! That's funny Scott. Would a ringpop count?

Thu Oct 20, 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Jeannine said...

side note: why does it seem "golden-haired women" are never taken seriously?

no one has to answer that. just wanted to point out a generalization. :)

Thu Oct 20, 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Because they ask questions they don't really want answered.


Thu Oct 20, 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Nunzia said...

A lot of truth has been spoken in these comments. Let me just add that a quick compliment out of the blue - especially when it's obvious that the girl can use one - is always a great pick-me-up for a female. Guys don't realize but the most simple comment can make a woman feel great or worthless. If every now and then you make a quick compliment out of nowhere, you'll get a thankful smile without running the risk of being ambiguous. It's when the compliments are long and drawn out that they begin to get so. If that makes sense.

Thu Oct 20, 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger maltman1 said...


"The Golden-Haired Woman" is like a trophy to a man. That's how i understand it. Of course, I don't mean that every lady who happens to be blonde is a Glolden Haired Woman. It's the idea that a woman who is amazingly beautiful can be your affirmation crutch that is embodied in the Golden Haired Woman that Eldredge writes about. (If you've read Wild at Heart and are versed in Eldredge-isms and knew all along, then let me go ahead and apologize.)

Thu Oct 20, 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Although Eldridge isn't God, and wild at Heart is a far cry from the Bible, I appreciate Marty's contribution from the married life (and scooter's too) but let me just say a couple things:

1. It's not Jeannie, it's Jeannine. To quote her, "I don't like when people call me Jeannie, I'm not in a bottle." :)

2. I thought the "golden girls" were supposed to be, like, really old or something.

Thu Oct 20, 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

And if you're wondering why I call Wild at Heart a "Far cry" from the Bible, please go to this critical review which will help you better understand how horrible this book really is.

Nothing against you, though,Marty. I just take issue with Eldredge.

Thu Oct 20, 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger bethy31 said...

Elisabeth Elliott also said that just as much as a woman should not try to illicit attention from a man for self-gratification, a man should control his 'hunting instinct' and not go after most available prey..ok, she said it much more beautifully but I'm working on a time constraint people.

I'm waiting on Jonathan's post for men although I protect their hearts by giving high fives and running away whenever they's worked well for me so far ; )

Thu Oct 20, 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger maltman1 said...


I'm not a huge Eldredge fan, either, but I generally agree with his "Golden-Haired Woman" Illustration. I wouldn't have any grounds to agree if it weren't for my personal struggle and deliverance from...well, guy-sins that i won't elaborate on here. I used Eldredge's points (because we've all read him) to relate truths that I've found in several other sources:

1. Our compassion deficits (lack of love that we've received) have left many men starving for affirmation, and hungry men are usually willing (if only subconciously or unadmittedly) to sin trying to get it.
(affairs, pornography, and a few other things are pain killers we use in an attempt to make it all go away)

2. Usually, we as men feel less like the men we think that we should/could be when times are tough or when we're worried or when we are doubting decisions we've made in the past. We listen to the enemy and we fall.

Some of this comes from a book called "Homesick for Eden" by Dr. Gary Moon, Prof. at Psychological Studies Institute in Atlanta. (He never ref's Eldredge)

Jonathan, don't think i'm getting offended at your complete disregard for fine literature and the exposition of spiritual truth that is Wild at Heart ;) (just to ruffle feathers--he-he). I'm enjoying the debate (at no risk to our friendship). keep it coming. I'm just concerned that we're a bit off topic...which is my fault by now.

Oh, and sorry for the screw-up, Jeannine. My eyes cross sometimes before my 11th cup of coffee.

Thu Oct 20, 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jeannine said...

haha. no worries, marty. i was just pointing out that, like most of society, eldredge makes a correlation with blondes and frivolous male behavior. why do blondes have to personify this illustration? why can't it be "mahogany-haired" or "chestnut brown-haired"? "silvery-haired"? :)

plus it was me who got off subject...sorry jonathan :). and, like my last one, those are all rhetorical questions ;).

Thu Oct 20, 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Ha ha marty, no feathers to ruffle here, they've all been shaken off. :)

And as far as all the getting off the subject goes, I guess it's just time for me to post again, huh? Is everyone bored with this post? well, it's been a big help. Thanks to all of you who've contributed.

I'll try to get the next post up sometime tonight.

Thu Oct 20, 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I have one more thing to add here... I had my second guitar lesson last night (I just bought my guitar on Sunday here at a market...)

Well, my teacher (a woman) complimented me on how well I was doing- she told me that I was learning really fast and that she was impressed. Well, I was of course excited to know that I didn't buy this guitar in vain- but that I might actually get to play it!

Anyway, I want to learn to play the guitar so that I can help out our praise band at school and also help out at our house church. I have been praying for the Lord to give me time and the talent to bring Him glory. Well, He wants this glory- so when my teacher complimented me- it wasn't me she was complimenting... it was the work the Lord is doing in me. So- the compliment goes to Him and brings Him glory and not myself.

So... same goes with compliments that you give a girl. If you think she is beautiful- she didn't make herself that way- the Lord made her that way. And complimenting Him might be a better way around this whole thing. And for use girls- taking compliments and realizing that we didn't make ourselves that way- but the Lord did!

We are (as Christians) who we are because the Lord made us that way- not because we are 'just that good or great or wonderful'. The Lord should receive all the glory in any compliment received or given.

These are just some thoughts I had today as I took my students to the Mexico City Zoo and we were in awe at the amazing animals the Lord made- and wow- He has quite some creativity! As we were commenting on how some animals were so beautiful- it reminded me of this 'complimenting blog'-somehow the two are related?!

Thu Oct 20, 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous koopstacochran said...

Jonathan, I really like your blog. I think you have an incredible talent of drawing helpful conversation to important issues. You always seem to find the right topic which strikes a nerve with everyone. Your writing abilities are impressive. Your pictures are perfect. Your just a great guy all around. Everything you do instantly turns to gold. Your such a thoughtful person. Have you ever thought of writing a book? The way you disagree with people with such sensitivity and patience yet with such inescapable logic and and sound biblical presuppositions. Your such a talented young man. You have been an inspiration to me ever since you first started posting. Your friend,


P.S. Jonathan--don't get any wrong ideas.

Thu Oct 20, 10:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

I can never tell when "Bradley" is being sarcastic. But I can tell when he makes grammatical mistakes. For future reference, Bradley, "Your" is possessive. "You're" is the contraction of "You are."

Thu Oct 20, 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger Bradley said...

thnks for pointing that out erin, I yousually dont miss thingz like that...I lke to read my comments over and ovovr before posting them. Besides, if I dont people just lookin' for a reasonahbee criticul will go out of their way tah poinem out.

You'res trooly,



Fri Oct 21, 02:05:00 AM  
Blogger Dr. C. August McGillicutty said...


Fri Oct 21, 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger Dr. C. August McGillicutty said...

Ad hominem arguments only support the original post, because they prove that there is no fallacy in the original post and therefore the arguer is subjected to attacking the person and not the argument.

Fri Oct 21, 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

post hoc ergo propter hoc


Sorry, that was just some Wall Street stuff

Fri Oct 21, 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger ckhnat said...

i don't have the patience to read through all 30 other comments, but i definitely have my opinion on this issue. My guy friends in college could tell you that i was never one to accept compliments graciously. I would wave it off or tactfully change the subject. They saw it as a matter of low-self-esteem and often called me out on it.

i saw it as flattery and distasteful ... certain that there was an agenda behind it all.

i recently put a longtime friendship on ice because my really close guy-friend would constantly compliment my outer appearance and NEVER show his appreciation for my inward beauty. So, I asked him right out ... why are we friends? ... he fumbled for a response ... "um ... you've got a cute nose?!" well ... he didn't really say that (although he had a number of other times which drove me nuts, esp. since we were maintaining a long-distance friendship at this point for 1 1/2 years and he hadn't seen me in at least 1 year ... how did he know i hadn't developed a wart on the tip of it).

Basically, he couldn't come up with a good enough reason.

A woman wants to be appreciated ... not just complimented. Appreciated for her wit, intelligence, talents, gentleness, self-sacrificing, etc. After six months of no communication, my friend and i are slowly rebuilding a friendship ... Oh, he has come to appreciate me more and both of us have learned much from the experience ... but it will never be the same.

be careful, guys, about complimenting a girl's outer appearance. We understand that men are very visual creatures. But women are not ... they are drawn to charisma and character ... try speaking our language.

a comment about my new dress brings suspicion but appreciation for my talent wins my undying friendship (with no romantic strings attached) and devotion.

Sun Oct 23, 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

Ok, so I didn't read all of the above commentes so I'm sure i'll be repeating some of what they said. But really, it's not the compliment that's the problem. Instead it's how it's delivered. Tone of voice can change the meaning of something. I really appreciate when my guy friends tell me I look beautiful. But when it's accompanied by a lingering glance or touch of the arm or something like that, it communicates something more like i want to know that beauty more than I do now. And that is confusing.

But honestly, I think the issue lies in the fact that we have all these rules about friends vs relationships. I had a conversation not to long ago about the "L" word. Love. Why is it not ok for me to tell my guy friends that I love them. I'm not staring into their eyes telling them I looooooooove them. But I just want to be able to say, hey man, I love you, without it complicating things. I love my friends, girls and guys alike and I think I should tell them that. I believe that one of the reasons lines get blurred and people run into flings so often is becuase we are looking to be loved. If we heard more often from our friends that we were loved then I don't think we'd get all the signals as mixed up as we do.

Mon Oct 24, 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Lorie said...

One way guys can test their motives is to look at WHO they compliment. Are they truly noticing and seeking to find the beautiful in ALL of their women friends?

This is an EXCELLENT topic and I very much respect your (and your friends') desire to wrestle with this issue so that you can edify your sisters in Christ. Fabulous.

Thu Oct 27, 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Bradley said...

You guys are all just so beautiful. All of you. I love you. Really. You all have such penetrating perspectives, moving exhortations, well articulated thoughts, helpful analysis, etc. And you all just seem like such great people.

Sat Oct 29, 11:44:00 PM  

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