Maybe it’s just easier to beat people down instead of building them up?
A friend of mine was having a conversation with her young neighbor. The young neighbor had grown frustrated with his inability to finish a project he had started. Inability, as in he didn’t think he could figure out how to do it. My friend mentioned to the neighbor that since he had already figured out how to get the project to this point she was certain that he’d be able to figure out what to do next. “You’ve gotten it this far, I’m sure you’ll be able to get it done. You’ve got this.”
Encouragement. It’s not something the young neighbor was too familiar with. “I can’t remember that last time anyone has told me they believed in me.”
Kind of sad.
I was raised by two loving parents. One was an optimistic encourager, the other a pessimistic pointer outer of what I did wrong. A bad grade on a school exam produced two distinctively different parental responses. While both were disappointed, one responded with a compassionate encouraging vibe of “I know you’ll do better next time” while the other grounded me and made sure I didn’t watch TV for a week. One left me feeling empowered, the other simply watered the seeds of doubt I’ve now been uprooting for years.
I prefer the encouragement, please.
I think we all do.
But where has all the encouragement gone?
For those who weren’t ever encouraged it’s often difficult to be encouraging. It goes against what they’ve known, of what they’ve experienced. Often our ability to be encouragers is passed down, almost genetically, like the color of our eyes.
Further putting the hurt on encouragement is society’s growing bias towards negativity. Reality shows, “news” outlets, political grandstanding, and to a great extent social media are all fertile breeding grounds of hate and tearing others down. Apparently it’s quite good for their business.
Kind of sad.
We often think of encouragement as something we do for our kids. Like it’s something that is eventually outgrown. But at what point in life do we ever truly outgrow the benefits of being encouraged? Or the need? We all carry within us our own personal heaviness, mostly unseen by others. Unseen, because it’s visibility we fear would make us appear weak. Especially us men. Our world is unkind to those perceived as weak, so we embrace the facade of strength. And the people we see as strong never need any encouragement, we tell ourselves, so none is ever offered.
Pick one day. One day to simply notice how much encouragement you witness. Listen. Observe. How much are we picking each other up? My experience of purposefully noticing the tone and content of conversations usually results in witnessing very little encouragement. But there are so many opportunities to do so.
We just need to decide to share some.
Even at my advanced age I still appreciate and benefit of words of encouragement. I’ve figured out a great deal about life, but that knowledge alone doesn’t always make life easy. Sometimes being the recipient of a few positive words can change my energy and move me forward.
Each day will present us with opportunities to offer words of encouragement to those we interact with. Friends, family, and strangers alike.
It’s also extremely impactful and important when we are interacting with our self.
In a world somewhat obsessed with the negative, we can offer a different voice, a voice of encouragement which will always create a more positive impact.
Closing the encouragement deficit starts with us.
Each of us.
Me. And you.
I know you can do it!
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash