Why should we accept compliments as the truth but accept insults as lies? Self-help books, quotes on the Internet, and average people in everyday life, often try to comfort those who have been severely insulted by saything things like: "They're just saying that because they're jealous," "They're just trying to bring you down because they're unhappy with their lives," "They don't know what they're talking about," and my favorite, "What people say about you says more about who they are than who you are." These sort of statements invalidate the insult, giving the insulted person no real reason to be upset. However, if all that is true, what about all the times that we have been complimented? They could very well falsely be trying to "bring you up" for whatever reason, it's still possible they don't know what they're talking about, and if it says more about them than it does about you, then good for them for being a "good person," but it really has nothing to do with you. But this isn't what we're told. We're told to be grateful for any compliment we receive. We're told to take them with pride, not shame. We're told that maybe if we get a certain compliment a lot, like being good at painting, then that's a determining factor in what our talents are, and even take it into consideration when choosing a career path, like becoming a professional painter. Some people even recommend writing down any "positive message" you receive in a journal, so when you're feeling down on yourself you can look through it and suddenly remember your self worth. If you think about it, a compliment and an insult are basically the same thing: somebody else's opinion of us. Are supposed to disregard something just because we don't like it? Wouldn't it make more sense to treat both kinds of statements as equals, and either accept both as being true or accept neither as being true? Of course, always thinking that an insult is true or always thinking that a compliment is false sounds like a pessimistic extreme, but wouldn't doing that make the most sense? Why should we accept compliments as the truth but insults as lies?

This is a very interesting question! The social practices of complimenting and criticising are both extremely important - and of course philosophically rich (for instance, they invite both ethical and epistemological reflection).

There is - in my view - no simple answer to the question of whether we ought to accept every compliment offered to us, for three reasons.

First, sometimes the compliment will be false - one in fact lacks the virtue that the compliment attributes to one - and sometimes the compliment will be unacceptably exaggerated - "I'm good, yes, but not that good!" - and sometimes the compliment will entail insulting or demeaning other people - " Wow, you're way smarter than these other people!"

Second, sometimes one might want to resist a compliment because one has worries about or objections to the complimenter. For instance, a friend of mine was recently praised by a member of a nationalistic political party for their tenacity and conviction - this was during a debate about immigration - and my friend rejected the compliment because they did not want to accept the praise of an aggressive (and quite likely xenophobic) nationalist. So the complimenter and the context should affect our decision about whether or not to accept a compliment.

Finally, some compliments may require modification - they might need to be moderated or softened or qualified - e.g. "It was very good, yes, but I made a few technical errors..." or "Thankyou, but I really couldn't have done it without the help of my team....", which is what Oscar winners often say in their speeches.

So we should not simply accept every compliment offered to us - some are likely to be false, exaggerated, insulting to others, or offered by objectionable people - and in my view there is a certain moral and social skill in recognising which compliments to accept or reject, or to moderate or modify.

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