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