yesterday i spoke in my ward. it was a topic i chose myself because it is deeply meaningful to me. and because i have spent a great deal of time studying it recently. i spent a lot of time thinking about it, both in personal study before being asked to speak and over the last week as i tried to define a structure for my talk that would allow me to share some of the insights i had gained through my own study. it went well, though i don't think i fully articulated some of the points i was trying to make. it probably would have been better had i finished writing it more than half an hour before church started so that i could do some re-writing.
after i finished speaking and we had sung the intermediate hymn, the next speaker stood up and proclaimed me an asset. i bit back a smile, until i looked at caroline who was sitting at the back of the chapel, grinning from ear to ear. because i have complained to her and others many times over the course of the last month or so about being declared an asset. the very first sunday i attended my new ward, i bore my testimony. because i felt moved by the spirit to do so. after sacrament, a handful of people pulled me aside to compliment me. these were not pass-in-the-hallway-so-you-say-something-nice type compliments. i've given and received my share of those. these were heartfelt statements of appreciation tinged with a bit of awe. this was repeated several times throughout church that day. and then, during relief society, i made a few comments, as i am wont to do. and the teacher stopped her lesson--stopped it in the middle of a thought--in order to state that i would be such an asset to the ward.
this bothers me. immensely. and not because it feels impersonal or like i'm appreciated only for what i can give the ward. i know these comments are not meant in that way. it bothers me partially because i know how very different my reality is from the appearance created by my statements. not that i'm a hypocrite. just that i am articulate and speak well, that i know how to use rhetoric in order to communicate, which i think often gives people an idea of me that is a little more together than my reality is.
but that's not the biggest reason these comments and compliments bother me. the biggest reason is this: i don't think i should be complimented for simply doing what i should do, for simply being what god has asked me to be. god has given me certain gifts and i believe he expects me to use them. i do--at least i try to. i do not believe i merit compliments for doing so. heaven knows i don't use them as well as i could.
more importantly, i feel like such compliments almost nullify the potential for interaction, learning, and growth that comes with true discourse. i don't want someone to tell me how smart i sound, or how insightful i am, or that my talk should be given in general conference. i want them to respond in kind. i want them to share their insights with me. i want them to engage in conversation, because out of conversation, communion, discourse, come greater light and knowledge for everyone involved. what comes of telling me how great my talk was? nothing, really.
i probably sound ungrateful. and i don't mean to. i appreciate people's compliments. i know they are generally sincere and that they're being nice. i am truly happy if what i have to say helps someone else and i would never want them to keep that to themselves if they want to share that fact (which someone did yesterday; i was happy that the spirit could work through me to help her). but i can't help but be uncomfortable in the face of such comments and praise.