OK, everyone has a story of someone who hurt them. A friend, associate, church, spouse, or whatever, stabbing you in the back, and digging the knife in deep. An ultimate betrayal. Right? When hurt, what can one do? Really? I find two main ways people tend to deal with offenders.
They either DWELL and FAIL or GIVE and LIVE. Sometimes there's some middle ground between the two. Often, however, middle ground dissipates within the walls of troubled hearts. People tend to migrate to one of these two opposites.
DWELL & FAIL
1. When an offense assails us, it's natural to process it. Processing can be a healthy self-examination of circumstances surrounding an event. Questions helpful to consider are:
2. However, often the initial processing of a painful event can turn into dwelling repeatedly upon the offense.
Here's the thing. Continual rehearsing an offense can take one down deep into anger and bitterness. It can keep one down longer than ever imaged. And, it causes more distress not less. I know after speaking with many wounded people over the years. And, to some degree, I speak from experience myself.
3. In the end, dwelling continually on an offense assures failure.
Bitter nasty grumpy people are often the result of dwelling and failing. Dwell and fail retells an incident within one's soul ad nauseam. The actual offense becomes a slaying giant rather than just an incident itself. In the end, you're alone in your own misery as people distance themselves from your war within.
GIVE & LIVE
Give and Live slays bitterness and anger over offenses committed against us. I must admit, I am not as good at this as I'm writing. Yet, I'm improving all the time! Just a few thoughts.
1. IT HAPPENS! -- GET OVER IT!
Yes, you were treated badly. Perhaps, unlikely, the offense was 100% the fault of another. Moving forward in your journey, requires one to look past faults. A wise old King once said, "Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs."
2. Learn to return evil with good. Good is the greatest weapon against evil ever employed to defeat evil.
After WWII, Germany lay in ruins. Almost 20% of the German population died, and city after city laid waste. In 1947 the European Recovery Program or Marshall Plan began. It was through this most generous approach from conquerors towards the vanquished that rebuilt Germany into arguably the European economic powerhouse that it is today. Perhaps the best approach offered towards an adversary is to do as the ancient saying says, "Heap coals of kindness on your enemy's head."
3. FORGIVING is not only desired, but MANDATED.
IN FACT, for a Christian, IT'S DEMANDED
During our many years in South Africa, I developed a friendship with a Zulu man much older than me. Simon was his name. One day, we walked down the dirt road in his crowded neighborhood. As we passed a certain house, Simon pointed saying,"You see that house? In that house is the man who murdered my son right before my very eyes." The pain in Simon's eyes as he told his story is still fresh in my eyes almost thirty years later.
Simon often shared the pain of the event, the bitterness in his heart, his deep desire to exact revenge, and his hatred for the man. One day as we met, the narrative changed drastically. Earlier in the week, Simon approached the house of his son's murder. Knocking on the door several times, no one answered the door. Simon knew, however there were people inside the home.
After several attempts of door knocking, Simon went to the side window. He called out, "I just want you to know today; this very day, I've decided to offer you forgiveness for killing my son. As the eldest male of my clan, I declare that no harm from my family will ever come your way. This forgiveness is offered to you if you choose to accept it." And, that began the healing process between family at mortal odds with each other. The next week the two families attended church together.
Have your ever given thanks for that person in your life? What? Thanks? Not for that person! Never!
GIVE THANKS! "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them." 1 Timothy 2:1
GIVE & LIVE or DWELL & FAIL.
The choice is mine, yours, and ours.
Just My Thoughts
I try to be very astute at observing others. Latest observations bring me to a conclusion. Many people tend to think discouragingly. OK, I know I'm pushing the bounds of grammar a bit here. We don't often make an adverb out of the words "encourage" or "discourage." But, it really well describes what I'm seeing. People often tend to go negative and stay negative when facing disappointments and setbacks. This then in turn seemingly leads to depression. Is estimated that roughly 30 million people in the United States struggle with depression to varying degrees.
Discourage, Discouraging, Discouragingly
"I am discouraged," is the dispirited soul's cry. Recently, I overheard a conversation in Starbucks. As two were conversing this comment ensued, "My job, is, well, so discouraging right now." Sitting in many a coffee shops one overhears many such conversations. Well, let me clarify, I overhear many such conversations.
For my wife it is quite maddening. Often, she will look at me and say, "You're listening to another conversation on the other side of the coffee shop. Aren't you?" Roughly translated, "That means your astute hearing shows you're not paying attention to me, again." My reply often is, "It's a fascinating what's going on over there!" And, as you can imagine, that excuse doesn't work very well!
What does it mean to be discouraged?
What do we mean when we use the word "discouraged?" "Discourage" can be defined as, "To deprive one of hope, confidence, and or spirit." Now, let those words sink in a bit. Deprive implies to steal. The act of stealing requires an agent. We typically refer to that kind of agent or person as a thief! And, what does this particular thief do? This thief absconds with one's confidence and spirit. And, is there much worse than living hopelessly without confidence?
Why do I get discouraged? Why do you get discouraged? Why do we, some of us anyways, actually "get discouraged?" Is perhaps the reason we "get discouraged" due in part because we think discouragingly? Perhaps what actually discourages us is not so much the events in our lives, but rather the way we interpret those events.
Two people worked for the same company in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Both participated in buying their company's stock through their payroll stock options. In sort of a competition, both acquired over the years large amounts of company stock. One woman in particular told me, "I am now worth over two million dollars because of all the company stock I own!" In fact, she spent over two hours sharing a confident view of her future. She was hopefully jubilant. Then 2008 happened.
Their company didn't survive the Great Recession. Overnight the company stock crashed to penny stock value. All value was wiped away. With that, both employees lost their entire retirements, which were invested totally in their company's stock. And, eventually they both lost their jobs as the company closed.
Encouragingly Thinking vs. Discouragingly Thinking
Employee Number One exclaimed, "All is lost!" It became his mantra by which he lived life. Within three years, he started to receive disability as he could no longer work. His diagnosis was a Major Mood Disorder. Unable to work, he dropped out of the work force, and to some degree out of life.
Employee Number Two immediately exclaimed, "What am I going to do now?" After the initial shock of her personal economic calamity, she devised a positive plan. While receiving unemployment benefits she found grant money for retraining in a pretty unusual discipline for a woman. With retraining openings for automotive repair she enrolled. Over three years she mastered several disciplines in automotive mechanics and repair. She found financing to start her own business. Now thirty minutes south of the Twin Cities she enjoys her own business which provides well for her family.
So, Really, Who Is This Thief?
Don't get me wrong. Discouragement is quite a natural emotion when facing adverse circumstances. And, for some it is a mental health issue requiring professional care. But, perhaps for many of us, we live, function, and enable a discouraging mentality in ourselves. Perhaps this thief lives inside of us because we unknowingly encourage it to do so?
In Psychology Today, University of California researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky states: "40 percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change." I interpret that to mean that perhaps 40% of the time I am willfully surrendering my own happiness to someone else. The way I think and process my circumstances and surroundings seem to determine my level of fulfillment in life.
Yet, This Thief Tends To Be Our Willing Companion
I think this thief is easily identifiable if one takes a little time to just look. In her blog, 7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People, Tamara Star notes that chronically unhappy people tend to consider their futures with worry and fear. This in turn leads to filling their daily regular conversations with gossip and complaints.
Perhaps, one major step in dealing with our depression is to begin making this type of individual feel unwelcome in our hearts and minds. So unwelcome, that eventually this resident moves out ceasing to visit any longer. Because, in fact, in the end, this friend is in fact not a friend. Rather, this impostor is a saboteur seeking to dismantle hope and crush our spirits. For some of us it's time to serve an eviction notice.
Just My Thoughts - Don
Other Posts on Positivity
Part One: Seek Encouraging Places
Part Two: Seek Encouraging People
Part Three: Seek Encouraging Conversations
Happiness: Where It's Not
Checkout my Assistance Network to Help Leaders Around the World!
Positive Psychology today is one of the newest branches of psychology, which stresses that one key to happiness is simply learning to appreciate what you already possess. This really is not a new development as Sophocles the ancient Greek playwright wrote, "Gratitude to gratitude always gives birth." Another ancient writer wrote, "In everything give thanks . . ."
Here's the big question I learn to ask to myself regardless how I am feeling about a thing or situation, "Are there things in my life at this very moment that I can in fact be grateful?" Regardless of what's causing me angst at the present moment I can always, if I look closely enough, find plenty of sources for gratitude. Here are some thoughts:
More Gratitude - Less Stuff Focused
“Grateful people report themselves as being less materialistic and less envious. In particular, grateful people report being more willing to part with their possessions, be more generous with them, less envious of the material wealth of others, and less committed to the idea that material wealth brings happiness. Apparently, material success is not a very important factor in the happiness of highly grateful people.” (Study Reported in: http://happierhuman.com/the-science-of-gratitude/)
More Gratitude - Better Relationships
So, you're struggling in your relationship with a person. You value that person, but it appears you're like two icebergs drifting away from each other or two lightening blots striking and vanishing. Well, often many of these complications are owed to an egocentric way to thinking. Often we think like this, "Well, if she would just meet my needs like this. I'd be happier about us." Or, "If my boss could just for once appreciate me! Than, I perhaps might work harder and produce more."
Try something different. Try to appreciate that person in your life more that you care about. Here's what I've found. People respond to being appreciated much much more than they respond to expectations.
Or, try gratitude with your boss. I can hear the outcry, "YOU DON'T KNOW MY BOSS!" Yes, quite right, most likely I do not know your boss. But, putting yourself in your boss's shoes, and trying to imagine what that world is like might assist you in gratitude. Give it a try! What could it hurt!
More Gratitude - Living Better Today
Grateful people tend to concentrate more on today than tomorrow. They focus on the present more than the past and future. Gratitude teaches us to appreciate the many things of life that surround us every day which often go unnoticed. As I learn to just be thankful for today, I learn to get past the hurts of yesterday a little easier, and not worry so much about the possibilities of tomorrow.
More Gratitude - Less Toxicity
When I focus upon gratitude and its bounty, it fills up an empty space in my life. All of us possess this empty space. When we choose a career, we fill it a bit. When we marry, we fill it a bit. When we buy a new car perhaps, the hole fills up. When experiencing a happy event, the hole fills even more. The same is true for negative thoughts.
When I choose to dwell on negative thoughts about other people, something is dumped into the abode of my soul. When choosing to hate, my soul fills up. When choosing to complain, another couple of pennies drop into my well of life. And, when mentally and emotionally bathing in the arena of toxic dispositions, guess what my well of life is like?
There a hundred possibilities in my life right now. All these possibilities are screaming for attention. There are also a hundred negative experiences in my life too. These experiences, seek to draw me into the web of dissatisfaction, discontent, and disconnection.
Today however, I chose to focus on my grandchildren who sat around me at the table asking me to play with them. Here these little people love me unconditionally asking only for some of papas time. It is right here and right now on this very day I realized that I am loved, I am appreciated, and I am fortunate above all people because I and only I enjoy this right here and right now.
Tomorrow will come with or without me. But right here and right now gratitude surrounds me because there really really is a lot to be thankful for at this moment, right here and right now which we call today.
Just My Thoughts
In J. R. R, Tolkien's book The Hobbit, Gandalf when facing the darkness of Saruman gives reason as to why he selected an unimpressive hobbit like Bilbo to carry the Ring in the fight against the enemy of darkness. Gandalf proclaims, "Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
Last week, after applying and paying for a P.O. Box online, I went to Big Bend, Wisconsin to pick up my key and box number. It was a horribly hot humid miserable day, and upon arriving to this very small post office, I was met by the sole employee of that office. Presenting my paperwork to obtain the key and box number, immediately trouble ensued. The Postal Employee introduced herself as Joannie. Joannie, in a very pleasant tone, asked for further paperwork of which I did not possess. In bold print on an empty application, it stated that in addition to the receipt, a copy of the application must accompany the applicant. I dropped the ball on that one. Joanie asked, "What is the telephone number you put on your application?" After giving her the number she replied very pleasantly, "No, that doesn't work." So, I gave her my home number. Nope, that didn't work. So, I thought, "Did I give my wife's cell number?" Nope! All the phone numbers I knew, and not one of them worked on the computer to bring up a copy of my application for a P.O. Box. At that point, Joanie began searching for a number of items known only to herself at the time, and after ten long minutes she came from the back with a copy of my application! Friends, when you put a wrong phone number on the application by inverting the first two numbers, good results are difficult.
Patiently, Joannie assisted me as I completed a new application at her request. Thirty-two minutes after entering the front door, I left with a P.O. box number and a key. With her pleasant demeanor and tenacity Joannie pulled it off!
Here's to the ordinary people doing small acts of kindness that hold back the power of darkness in our daily lives. Well done Joannie!
What small acts of kindness will you do today to hold back the power of darkness in someone else's life?
Just My Thoughts,
Entering my office early Sunday morning, I saw the red light glowing on my phone indicating a voice mail waiting for me. I make it a habit never to answer my voice mail on Sunday as the need to prepare for Sunday morning services takes precedence. But, the amber light kept luring me until I finally gave in to its temptation.
The voice mail was from Laurie, one of my members who suffers from Down Syndrome. She is in her middle thirties and participates in just about every possible opportunity she can to serve others. The message began, "Pastor Don, I want to talk with you. I don't want you to get upset, so I can't leave a message about it on your phone. So, can I talk to you on Sunday?"
Now, this is precisely the reason I do not listen to voice mails on Sunday. Too many are precisely of this nature. "Pastor Don, I am unhappy with something, and I want to talk with you about it Sunday morning." So, finding myself fretting about this message wondering, "What might this be about?" I passed this onto my dear wife asking her to deal with it.
Upon arriving home after services and sitting down to dinner, I inquired as to the nature of the voice mail. Kathy smiled at me and said, "Yes, she had a very important issue to share with you." I looked into my wife's eyes and said, "OK?" "Well, she wanted you to know that you are doing a really great job, she likes you a lot as her pastor, and she really enjoys your sermons," replying with a smile. My embarrassment was fairly evident on my face.
This made me think a bit. You see, I think encouragement exists all around us much more than we realize. Perhaps, we don't pay attention enough to the encouraging voices God surrounds us with each day. I think there are a lot of Lauries out there. We perhaps are just too caught up in our own stuff to hear them!
Just My Thoughts
During a conversation with a friend of many years ago, she burst out, "I just want to be happy." That statement seemingly stood in stark contrast to everything surrounding my friend. Sitting in her opulent luxury summer home worth several million dollars, the contradiction was astounding. "But, happiness is so elusive," she concluded. As our conversation continued I asked, "What would make you happy?" After some deliberation, "Well, I don't really know." Then a second question brought the matter to its core, "What is happiness?" After another hour of conversation my friend concluded, "I really don't know what 'happiness' is or might look like."
Perhaps defining happiness is as difficult as finding it let alone obtaining it. I mean, if one doesn't know what one is looking for than how can one know when one has found it or not found it? In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky elaborates, describing happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” She defines "happiness" as "subjective well-being." In other words, I actually have some bearing on determining how happy I am going to be or not be.
How does one reach such a place of meaningful, worthwhile, and subjective positive well-being? Here are just a few thoughts:
It Begins With You
While some mental health professionals believe our genes can determine up to 50% of how we feel about happiness, Abraham Lincoln perhaps summed it well by saying, "Most folks are as happy as they make their minds to be." Lincoln reinforces my experiences with people all over the world. During conversations with my South African friend Simon, an elderly Zulu man, he often said sitting on an old stool outside of his modest African home, "I can be happy with this, right here, right now."
Attitude is Everything - Almost
Again, Simon often reminded me while sitting under an African umbrella tree, "I choose to be happy because I am happy." Simon never earned more than $5,000.00 in any given year in his life. Spending four years in a German POW Camp during WWII, Simon assured me over and over again that his meager African life did indeed possess many qualities worth choosing happiness over despair.
Chuck Swindoll said it this way, "We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes."
Happiness Other than Myself
If one's goal is simply attaining happiness for one's self, than is not that happiness which is so deeply desired dependent just upon one's self? I mean, if I am the standard of what I define and determine happiness to be, than perhaps the end of my happiness can be no greater than myself. No, happiness cannot be just about me and how I feel. I must rather find happiness embedded in something greater than myself.
Look around! The beauty of nature, a good thing someone did for you, relationships, a meaningful existence in helping others, a hot three shot extra hot toffee nut latte, rain drops as they fall down upon the leaves of trees and plants pitter-pattering their percussion rhythms, grandchildren, family, boat rides, Face Book, a kind word, a decent job, biting into a sweet cold Honeycrisp Apple, a kiss, a smile, an opportunity, a Bald Eagle flying above, a best friend, southern style BBQ brisket, good Chinese food, someone who makes me laugh, "I love you papa," the wind blowing through the trees, a birthday card, a wink, a puppy licking your toe, help on the side of the road when my car breaks down, music, "I love you sweetheart," good health, stable health, another day, another breath, a pension check - you're lucky, change in your pocket - makes you rich compared to the rest of the world, an income of $50,000 a year puts you in the top 2% of income earners in the world, medicine, a doctor, my church, a check at the end of the week, a day off, someone standing beside me in my most painful moment, volunteering, a rose, a beautiful picture, your cancer free!, beyond this meal there is still food in my cupboards, fireworks - (who pays for those and sets them up and off?), the person who delivers my mail, the firefighter who is on duty, the pastor I can go to, the smell of coffee in the morning, forgiveness, a back rub, upgrading my skills, a loving touch, birthday cake, Thanksgiving turkey, ice cream, and . . . . . . see what I mean?
For most of us, there is plenty to create happiness in us if we choose to see it and sense some gratitude for it. If happiness is elusive, perhaps it's because it hides somewhere deep within our hearts. Maybe looking there is a good place to start . . .
During my many years in Africa, often my African friends asked a pondering question, "With all that Americans enjoy in their country how can anyone be unhappy in the USA?" Quite a question, don't you think?
In fact, studies and statistics show that multitudes of people living here are indeed very very unhappy. During my short eight years back in the United States, I too notice unhappiness seemingly dominating many people's lives. And, here's the thing, I too, sometimes find that deep within me dissatisfaction also pops up from time to time. Is this just our American way? Is happiness in this bountiful country in which we live just an allusive pursuit of what might be around the next corner, the next opportunity, or the next lottery ticket? I offer just a few thoughts and observations of perhaps where we search in the wrong places for happiness.
Over and over again people share, "If I just had more money, I could be happy." Yes, more money does provide one with more options, but it also brings many more variables. As most desire enough money to meet one's needs, quite often focus upon one's needs turns more into a drive just to acquire more money. The few people I know who are worth millions of dollars all share the same thoughts, "Money isn't everything, it brings as many difficulties as it brings opportunities, and life is more than money." My wonderful mother until her dying day believed that if she could just win the lottery, happiness might wait just around the corner. Now, I am not saying wealthy people are unhappy, but some of the happiest people I've known possess the least amount of money. And, they appear wealthy in so many other ways.
I know this guy who loves his fishing boat. I mean he loves his fishing boat, his fishing time, and his fishing! In fact, fishing is the first priority in his life. Everyone knows it including his family. Fishing comes before relationships, marriage, children, and well, for the matter, just about anything else. By far his greatest financial investments lean towards fishing. Now, fishing guy while surrounded with more gear and wealth than the average Bass Pro Shop, is just about the most crabby, unhappy, grumpy guy anyone has ever known!
We are a nation of Stuff-Acquirers! Americans own more stuff than any people on the planet! The problem with stuff is that it provides momentary happiness, puts us in debt, is soon forgotten, and needs to be continually replenished with more new stuff to replace our old stuff; if stuff is the stuff that truly gives life meaning. Here's another thought, in gaining all this stuff, Americans are now the most overworked group of workers in the Industrialize world.
During my first internship in Dallas, Texas back in 1981, a church member drove up in a brand new expensive luxury car. No one was allowed to touch it, sit in it, let alone drink a beverage upon its palatial leather seats! Six months later while he pulled into the parking lot I noticed there where two bales of hay in the back seat of that same automobile. Everything shiny loses it sparkle, every new thing becomes old, and everything we acquire fades into insignificance; eventually.
A number of years ago, an extremely successful businessman of just forty-two years of age shared his personal startling revelation with me. "Don," he said, "I made up my mind that by the time I turned forty years old I'd reach the top of the mountain. I am rich, successful, and highly envied by many in the business world. But, you know what Don? As I look out from this mountain top at what it has cost me in relationships and happiness, I am just now realizing that I've spent my entire life climbing the wrong mountain. I wanted to be over there!"
Kenneth GoodPastor, professor at University of Saint Thomas, developed at term for Goal-fixation or Target-fixation in his book, Conscience and Corporate Culture. He called this phenomenon "teleopathy." "Teleopathy is a mindset that reflects imbalance; in particular, it reflects imbalance in the pursuit of goals to the detriment of other ends that may have instrumental or moral significance." Simply put, Goal-fixation is being so focused on an end result, an end desire, or success in a specific area that it becomes the sole reason a person lives to the neglect and detriment of everything else in life.
Many people searching for happiness seemly never find their allusive goal. Is it possible that simply looking for happiness in itself for self-pursuit is a dead end? If one's goal is simply attaining happiness for one's self, than is not that happiness which is so deeply desired dependent just upon one's self? I mean, if I am the standard of what I define and determine happiness to be, than perhaps the end of my happiness can be no greater than myself.
Every now and then I take an hour long ride south to a little place called Aikin. Now, there are really only a few reasons this little place intrigues me. First, I enjoy the drive through the beautiful forests of northern, Minnesota. Next, I enjoy the hot cup of coffee at the local McDonald's in this little town. But, most of all I enjoy an old gentleman named Dennis.
Dennis and I are on a first name basis, but Dennis is pretty much on a first name basis with every customer in the store. Dennis is a crew member who sees to the needs of customers out on the floor. He serves coffee, cleans tables, empties trash, but most of all Dennis encourages with his contagious smile, enthusiastic conversation, and his propensity to just energize everyone around him. Dennis is an encourager!
Upon my very first visit five years ago, Dennis approached me and introduced himself ensuring me that if there was anything I needed he would certainly see to it. During his next pass around the floor he smiled as he told me a joke. Dennis laughs; takes time to greet every customer coming into the store, and generally just makes one feel really good that time was taken to enter this particular place.
More than once when feeling particularly bored or melancholy, I've gone out of my way for a hot cup of coffee to this special place. This special place is special because of this special person who lights up the room when he enters.
Become an encouraging person, for an encourager is an especially special presence in an often disheartened world.
Part Seek Encouraging Places
Part Seek Encouraging People
Part Seek Encouraging Conversations
A few weeks ago, I visited Roger, an elderly man, who suffering from cancer is not far from completing his earthly journey. Sitting down with him, I began my usual manner of hospice conversation seeking to ease his discomfort. After about thirty minutes, I began my departure. Suddenly, he looked at me wide eyed and alert blurting out, "Sit down here. Stay with me a little longer. I'll tell you something."
I was not really interested in a continued conversation as the first thirty minutes was well, to say the least, a bit laborious. However, I sat down with a somewhat smile's facade. Immediately, Roger took me in his memory to the deck of his WWII Coast Guard Cutter three hundred miles off the coast of Labrador, Canada. Together we dropped depth charges into the ocean's blue on suspected German subs far below the surface. Roger spoke very slowly and hesitantly of the demands of leadership he witnessed during his turbulent years of service in the Coast Guard during the war.
Turning his head and looking straight at me struggling to gather his thoughts he muttered, "Just remember this one thing my young friend . . . no matter how . . . well you do it . . . how well you perform . . . you are a leader . . . and there are always . . . people who don't . . .agree with you." Taking a breath, his cloudy eyes gazed upon me as he continued, "You mustn't give up . . . the ship You never give up the ship!" Then balling up both fists, he stiffened his arms elevating himself in his bed and emphatically questioned, "Do you understand what I am saying?" Before I could answer, his strength waned as he slumped back down into bed. He hesitated again as was his manner the entire conversation, and he repeated, "Do you understand?"
Smiling I humbly replied, "Yes, I understand my friend. Thank you for the most delightful conversation today. With that he drifted into a haze, and I left Roger's room realizing the fortuitous event which just took place. In the course of two hours, a very old man did more, said more, and encouraged more than any other event that day, maybe that that week, and perhaps that month.
Encouragement is all around us. The challenge is to develop a sensitivity to listen for it, learn patience to wait for it, and spend a little time in it. Seek encouraging conversations. They may be a little tough to find, but, they are there if you look hard enough. They are worth the effort in this often caustic world.
The Power of Encouragement: Find Encouraging Places
The Power of Encouragement: Seek Encouraging People
During our many years in South Africa, the Zulu people taught me many of their wise old sayings. One of them I clearly remember says, "Izandla ziyagezana." Translated is says, "The hands wash each other." The meaning applied in the areas and among the Zulu people I used to serve was, "It takes two hands to wash each other . . . it takes one person to encourage another."
One very common occurrence among those who struggle with low self-image is that they are constantly surrounded by those who speak critically of them. Having been privileged to work with two fire departments during the last eight years one incident comes to mind vividly demonstrating this point.
Our department was called out to car accident. There were multiple serious injuries, and as firefighters extricated the injured from the mangle wreckage and applied first aid, another agency arrived on the scene to assist. In the midst of veteran firefighters stabilizing patients and preparing them for transport, an individual from another department began to question firefighters on their back-boarding techniques. The criticism was not warranted, incorrect, and ill-timed. Later back at the hall an experienced firefighter said, "Even I began to doubt my abilities while on that scene as the person questioned everything I did."
Another experience comes to mind as I sat next to a gentleman on a flight from Minneapolis to Pensacola. He was engrossed in a crossword puzzle. As my wife and I were paging through the same magazine he began a conversation with us. I wasn't much interested in a conversation, but he was so pleasant I could not readily ignore him. Then without warning and with a huge smile he blurted, "Let's finish this crossword puzzle together!" And, there the three of us collaborated on a crossword puzzle for much of the way. This guy was so encouraging and pleasant I actually wanted to partner with him in his endeavor.
And, the opposite it quite true all well. During a team retreat at a camp in Arkansas years ago, a Forty-two Domino tournament was organized. Our team consisted of a number of people, but one however remains with me to this day. During every match, this individual constantly criticized any move his teammates made in which he did not concur. I remember clearly at one point he looked across the table and yelled at me, "You play just like a pregnant woman." Having a quick witted nature I softly shot back, "There are a lot of great pregnant Forty-two players!" By the third day our team involuntarily disbanded and forfeited. Although unspoken, every member of the team except one felt the same way, "Better to lose than put up with him."
In an ancient story between friends over five thousand years ago, one friend said to another who was suffering, "Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees."
If your knees are shaky, perhaps it's due in part to the critical people around you. If people in your world are shaky, well then, perhaps . . . that's because of you?
The Power of Encouragement: Find Encouraging Places
The Power of Encouragement: Seek Encouraging Conversations
Don was born in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having served twenty-two years in South Africa as missionaries with his wife Kathy, and eight years pastoring in the United States, he shares unique perspectives about life, family, relationships, and ministry.