Compliments (by Garrison Keillor)

#34.  For fear of what it might do to me, you never paid a compliment, when other people did, you beat it away from me with a stick.  

"He certainly is looking nice and grown up."  He'd look a lot nicer if he did something about his skin. 

"That's wonderful that he got that job."  Yeah, well, we'll see how long it lasts.

You trained me so well, I know perform this service for myself.  I deflect every kind word directed to me, and my denials are much more extravagent than the praise.  

"Good speech."  Oh it was way too long, I didn't know what I was talking about, I was just blathering on and on, I was glad when it was over. 

I do this under the impression that it is humility, a becoming quality in a person.  Actually, I am starved for a good word, but after the long drought of my youth, no word is quite good enough.  "Good" isn't enough.  Under this thin veneer of modesty lies a monster of greed.  I drive away faint praise, beating my little chest, waiting to be named Sun-God, King of America, Idol of Millions, Bringer of Fire, The Great Haji, Thun-Dar the Boy Giant.  I don't want to say, "Thanks, glad you liked it."  I want to say, "Rise, my people. Remove your faces from the carpet, stand, look me in the face."  

- Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days

(Some formatting changes for readability.)