Epistle: Aw Shucks or Thank You

When I was a boy growing up in our little town, of Payson Utah, the social code was quite forgiving about many things. Grammatical mistakes were ignored if even noticed. Economic prosperity was not the most important criterion for social acceptance. Athletic prowess was admired, but not worshiped. We even accepted people who were smarter than we were, of whom there were many.

But we had one article of faith maybe even a commandment. “Thou shalt not brag about thyself.” To do so was to be labeled, “Stuck up.” A social outcast, a leper. So even if we got a compliment we tried to play it down. Various versions of, “Shucks, that wern’t nothin.”

Some of us including me may still be saying this sometimes. We may think this is being humble. Maybe it is, but that response also carries some other messages. It may be a modest insult to the person who complimented us. Suggesting that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

It may send the message that we want the person to lay the kind words on a little thicker, something like, “No. seriously you were great.”

Ironically, it may sound like we didn’t appreciate the kind words they just gave us.

We might even convince our admirer that he or she was wrong. It really was nothing. That would be a downer.

Years ago The Three D’s, a singing group I was part of was playing a hotel in Las Vegas.

I went to see a dramatic production that was playing in the hotel. I enjoyed it. Later I happened to see the male lead in the show walking toward me in the hotel corridor. He was pretty well known as a successful Hollywood actor, and I was a little reluctant to speak to him. But I did, and told him how I admired his performance.

I expected a condescending wave as he went by. Instead he stopped in tracks, and graciously thanked me. I left feeling he had complemented me, as indeed he had.

Groveling is not necessarily humility. It may in fact imply ingratitude to our creator that we are disrespecting one of his children he made in his own image. That one is our self.

I’m convinced that the best response to a sincere compliment is an equally sincere thank you.

So if you think these words of mine are wise, I thank you. If you don’t, Ah shucks, twern’t nothin’.