Where Has All The Encouragement Gone?

Where Has All The Encouragement Gone?

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

The Promise

The Promise

I probably won’t have the answer.

(Questions sometimes don’t have answers.)

I probably won’t fully understand, either.

And, no, I won’t know exactly how you feel.

What I can give you?

My presence.

Compassionate presence.

My full attention.

My open ears.

My open arms.

My open heart.

My infinite patience.

My silence if that’s what is needed.

I will never minimize the burden you carry.

I just won’t let you carry it alone.

Photo by Brent Ninaber on Unsplash

Could It Really Be This Simple?

Could It Really Be This Simple?

What if John and Paul were right?

What if all we need is love?

I’ve often dismissed the premise as being overly simplistic. Life can be extremely challenging sometimes. But I’m starting to think they were on to something.

When I look at the world, where wouldn’t love make a difference? Imagine any crisis or strife anywhere in the world. Wouldn’t love make so many of these situations dramatically better, perhaps even eliminate them completely? Isn’t the absence of love the root cause of most of these situations to begin with?

Look at the relationships in your life. Wouldn’t unconditional love make them better and stronger? Wouldn’t unconditional love allow us to accept others as they are and others to accept us as we are? Wouldn’t others also feel a greater sense of peace from feeling a greater sense of love?

Look at your relationship with yourself. What would your life look and feel like if you lovingly allowed yourself the space to be you, without judgement or condition? Isn’t it the absence of love which prevents us from being patient, forgiving, and supportive of ourselves?

Where wouldn’t more love make a difference?

Often our well-intentioned search to find answers to life’s deepest questions can take us down a long and winding road. Our problems are big and therefore demand big solutions.

Or do they?

Maybe it’s not as complicated as we can sometimes make it out to be.

Maybe all we really need is love?

It’s a great day to be you!

The One Secret To Never Keep Secret

The One Secret To Never Keep Secret

“Love begins wherever we can truly do something for each other.”   – Gabriele Brüggemann

For something as important as love, for the most part you’re pretty much forced to figure it out on your own. The younger version of me learned about love by seeing it in action. Or, more accurately, by not seeing it in action. The examples of love I saw were for the most part silent, even secretive. Love, once initially established, tended to fall into the Understood category. You know I love you, so there isn’t really a need for me to remind you that I do. People in my world simply didn’t go around expressing their love for each other. It just wasn’t something that was done. Emotions, especially those of the loving kind, were best kept to yourself.

Especially for us males.

Maybe this describes your experience as well?

This older version of me has grown enough to grasp the idea that love can be a powerful life-changing force, an energy which can change things, including energy itself. And that energy changes people in a way only love can change them.

Love, the powerful version of love, is deep. Unconditional. Unlimited. But for love to be the force of change it can be, love needs to be proactively expressed. Consistently. Knowing someone loves you will only get you so far. But when you are proactively and consistently reminded someone loves you and has you and believes in you – especially for no specific reason other than that they do – that’s when love is at it’s most powerful, life-changing best. Continue reading “The One Secret To Never Keep Secret”

What Impact Will You Have In Your Radius Of Love?

What Impact Will You Have In Your Radius Of Love?

The local shops were packed. An important holiday shopping day, the Saturday after Thanksgiving was rebranded as Small Business Saturday a few years back. The goal was to encourage people to do some of their holiday shopping at the small, family-owned businesses in their communities. And on this day, business was quite good.

Supporting locally-owned businesses has a huge impact on the local economy. It provides jobs and incomes for many families, and much of that income stays within the local community, which perpetuates even more economic activity.

Shopping local makes a big impact in a community.

It works the same way with love.

Draw a one mile radius around where you are. How much love can you give locally this holiday season? How much impact can you make on the lives of others right around you?

There are opportunities everywhere.

Maybe it’s checking in on someone who is alone this season…just to remind them that they aren’t really alone. Maybe it’s cooking a meal for a family going through a rough stretch right now. Maybe it’s volunteering at a local soup kitchen or shelter. Or donating a toy to a child who may go without one unless you do. Maybe it’s just being kind and patient during what can be a very stressful time of year for some. Maybe it’s holding a door for someone. Or maybe it’s just offering a smile.

We can give away a smile, can’t we?

Love is the one gift which is always needed, always the right size, and the giver is always happy when it gets returned. There is no greater gift than love, and there is no limit on how much love we can share with the world.

Or in our neighborhood.

Make your impact felt this holiday season.

It’s a great day to be you!

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

Thursday was a big day for Danielle.

11 months sober.

I didn’t even know sobriety was an issue for her.

You could feel both her pride and apprehension in her Facebook post informing her friends of her milestone. Apparently she’s been down this path before, she knows it’s something she is taking one step at a time.

It was great to see the love, support, and encouragement her friends posted in reply. Her replies to their posted comments indicated she, too, was quite happy for the love being sent her way.

Danielle bravely decided to publicly share her struggles with those in her social media world. Bravely, because our world tends to look down on struggle, leaving many of those who do struggle to struggle in silence, battling their own demons alone. Struggle often Continue reading “This One Assumption Can Save A Life”

Please Don’t Wait Until I’m Broken To Fix Me

Please Don’t Wait Until I’m Broken To Fix Me

The real question is why didn’t anyone bother to ask why he was sitting on a wall in the first place…

When you think about the elliptical shape of an egg it’s not really surprising Humpty Dumpty had his great fall, is it? When you factor in gravity, an egg on top of a wall is an accident waiting to happen. And in Humpty’s case that’s exactly what happened.

Sure, all the king’s horses and men tried their best, but, as the story goes, they couldn’t put Humpty back together again.

Too little too late.

Sometimes we find our own emotionally elliptical-shaped self teetering atop of our own walls, and with one small change in circumstance we, too, can find ourselves in pieces on the floor, hoping the horses and men (and women) in our own life will be there trying to help us piece our emotional self back together again. And while it’s good to have friends to help you pick up your pieces, wouldn’t it be better if they never let you fall in the first place? Continue reading “Please Don’t Wait Until I’m Broken To Fix Me”

Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole

Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole

There’s a reason you’ve never seen a sunflower plant in any image depicting the North Pole.

Sunflowers don’t grow there.

Plants are at the mercy of their environment. The proper soil, the mix of nutrients, the amount of water, temperature, and sunshine can mean life or death to a plant. So many external variables impact their viability and growth.

And there’s not a single thing a plant can do about it.

As humans, we, too, are greatly impacted by the environments we find ourselves in. Some environments are conducive to growth and thriving, while others will never let us Continue reading “Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole”

The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give

The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give

To talk with him, you’d have no idea of all he has been going through. The smile and the usual jovial confidence in his voice did a wonderful job of covering the pain and emptiness.

But the pain was quite real, always simmering just below the surface, out of sight but never out of his mind.

Sometimes life just isn’t easy. It’s a feeling we’ve all known at some point, perhaps even right now. Sometimes life is confusing, overwhelming, uncertain, empty. What compounds the hurt is the human tendency to keep our emotional pain a secret. We’ve been societally conditioned to believe an admission of emotional difficulty is a sign of weakness. So we keep it all inside, festering, doing all we can to manage the pain, constructing facades of happiness and stability for all to see, afraid of the shameful truth we feel we need to hide from the world.

At times, the opposite is true. Some have courageously opened their deepest self and Continue reading “The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give”

The Modern Guide for Hating Other Humans

The Modern Guide for Hating Other Humans

Hate needs a makeover.

I’m not a big fan of hate. Or of hateful people. But out of fairness, as a society we haven’t done a great job teaching people the proper way to hate others, have we?

None of us are born haters. Hate is something we learn rather informally, often influenced by those who guide us though our formative years. The people who teach us how to hate have no course syllabus or Powerpoint presentations to ensure we are doing it the “right” way. Rather, we become unsuspecting apprentices, watching and listening to the actions and words of those who we look up to and someday hope to make proud. Hate can be passed from one generation to the next just as easily as the color of someone’s eyes. Continue reading “The Modern Guide for Hating Other Humans”