Two years ago, Hoboken Grace sent a team to Gulu, Uganda, for a Restore International Vision Trip. Their tour of northern Uganda took them to Restore Leadership Academy, where they held a graduation ceremony with Bob Goff, the group’s founder. They danced, watched balloons sail high into the air, and shared words of love and encouragement. It’s a memory — and a lesson — that has stuck with Erika ever since.
One of the most important things Bob Goff taught me is how to love people in a bigger way with my words.
As we prepared to celebrate the graduation of the children at Restore Leadership Academy, Bob challenged us. This, more than any other advice he gave, is what has stuck with me:
“Don’t just tell people what they want to hear.
Tell them who they are.”
Call out the good, beautiful, and powerful things you see in them. Don’t just puff up their egos and deliver sugary, wafer-thin compliments that will quickly dissolve, but encourage them to walk in the fullness of all they were meant to be and do.
Telling people who they are is a practice that takes time and observation. You have to really pay attention to be able to look squarely into a person’s eyes and speak meaningful truth into someone’s life. Our words carry power, so much more so when we deliver them to someone we know intimately.
I think sometimes we avoid praising the good we see in others, because it makes us feel more vulnerable. It requires us to share a bit of our heart in order to reach to someone else’s. What if they never return the favor? What if our well-meaning words are dismissed, or met with sarcasm?
Author Marianne Williamson says:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”
It can be so much easier to focus on flaws – our own, and certainly the ones we share with other people. The flaws seem so glaringly obvious, but it takes more work to actually observe and notice a person’s true character. Sometimes it seems easier to back-bite and gossip than practice building others up. You only need scroll through the litany of derisive, exhausting social media comments to know that we would often rather choose to tear each other down.
I want to live and speak differently.
The book of Colossians (4:6) tells us:
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
I am becoming more of an encourager since coming home from Africa. Whether it is for a birthday, anniversary, or no occasion at all, I am making it a point to speak life and hope rather than destruction into those who cross my path. I want to choose my words more carefully, and to be spoken with grace. I want to be known as a joyful encourager, not an angry critic.
What have been the most encouraging words spoken to you? What might happen if you did the same for others more often?
Erika is a dinner group leader and coach at Hoboken Grace. You can read more about faith, relationships, and life lessons on her blog, Married in Mile Square City.