You and I know a lot of great people. And we can help empower them to become who they were born to be.
The other night we were out at a social event at one of Brisbane’s big evening markets with a bunch of people from our church. We had our Kiddo with us and the place was absolutely packed. Kiddo started getting mega hungry in the crowds and the waits, and with so many people around, there weren’t many places to be able to sit and eat properly. Throughout the night, a bunch of our friends chipped in to help with things that seemed really small to them – holding a bag, seeing if there was food still in the mouth cause we had to eat standing up, moving some rubbish – but if you’re a parent with a hungry kid, you know these “small” things actually make up a big deal.
It reminded me that I know a lot of great people.
There’s something that really speaks loudly about someone’s character when they are very casually serving others. That is to say, when it’s such a rehearsed and routine part of who they are, that they do it automatically, and consider it absolutely normal.
In truth, I am very fortunate to have met hundreds if not thousands of great people. Many of whom have spent their lives fostering a servant hearted attitude. More than this, I know many people with big callings on their lives, big dreams, and a whole lot of follow through. They don’t just have big goals – they’re active in making them happen.
I know great husbands and wives. Great parents. Great co-workers and leaders. Great come-along-side-and-listeners. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without all the amazing people who have helped invest into me and supported me on my journey.
But then I realised that not everyone feels this way. In fact when I talk to many people, they feel like they don’t know many good ones. A lot of single people will routinely despair that they see no one of value or character or calling in their life. A lot of people as they get older will feel like there’s no real incentive to keep meeting people (even though all of us need to). Some people feel they don’t have any mentors or examples to follow into their next life season.
And I get it. There’s defintely a lot of cruel and terrible people out there. People who are indifferent to the suffering of others. People who instigate wars, who cheat on their spouse without remorse or recompense, who betray their friends and either don’t forgive or seek forgiveness, or warp forgiveness to empower abuse.
And in truth, all of us can be the hero and the villain. In fact, you and I are probably the hero to some people, and the villain to others. Your spouse may love you today, but your ex might be still using you as an example of why they can’t find a partner. Your kids may respect you, but your wider family group might not. You’ve shown a lot of kindness to these people, but a lot of cruelty and indifference to those people.
Joyce Meyer once said that many people will do as a ministry things they won’t do for their own families or friends. How we define our own “goodness” is a very interesting thing. I think all of us are aware of just how evil and dark the human heart can be at times. The prophet Jeremiah despaired that the human heart is deceitful above all things.
And to be honest, I have seen so many great heroes of the faith and of our world fall from grace. We see so many celebrities and famous influencers fall from grace all the time recently to sex scandals and substance abuse situations and domestic issues. But on a personal level, I’ve also seen this to be the case with many friends and mentors I’ve had that I’ve seen fall to all of these and more.
And often people just become indifferent and self-seeking as they get older. They withdraw from the larger groups they once frequented, they stop contributing in a volunteer or financial capacity to various causes, they don’t go to the birthday parties or celebrations or even send people messages any more.
So, how do I reconcile all of this against the fact I began by arguing that you and I know a lot of great people?
At the heart of all of it is the issue of potential. Beause as great our potential for evil and pain is, eternity has also been placed in the human heart, and every single person has been designed for a unique and powerful purpose in our world.
I see three main factors involved here.
The first is a matter of recognition. John and Helen Burns who have helped thousands if not hundreds of thousands of marriages in Canada and abroad routinely give the following advice to married couples: Stay Amazed.
You can see when a marriage starts to end – when one or both partners stops seeing the good things in their partner. They become consumed with anger or irritation towards their partner’s approach to work. Or parenting. Or cleanliness. Their little idiosyncrasies become all they can see. No longer can they see or acknowledge the great elements of their spouse’s character, appearance, work ethic, or the good they do for the world.
But it’s not just in marriage where an inability to recognise what’s in others becomes a problem. It’s with children, where we frequently see children who don’t have parents who speak life into them wither up and struggle to succeed. It’s with employees, where a lack of recognition usually results in them going elsewhere. It’s with friends who feel like they’re always giving and not receiving enough back.
John Maxwell says of leaders that they see more than others, and they see it before others. An essential part of helping encourage people to be great is allowing yourself to see what is really great.
One thing I’m always working on is to recognise what the calling and the giftings are on the people I know. Why are they so frustrated here? Maybe it’s because there is a core part of their identity and purpose that is at stake. Why do they come alive in this area? Maybe because this is who they’re meant to be.
The second is a matter of calling it out. If you see a good thing, you should say a good thing. It’s not enough for us to see a person’s potential – it could be our words or encouragement that help someone embrace their truest self.
I was watching an old Zig Ziglar video recently on the power of changing the picture. In it, Zig recalls the story of a young man where everyone around him knew that he had born out of wedlock and his father wasn’t around which was a much bigger deal back then than it was now. He lived in fear when people would or might ask him, “Whose child are you?”. He held a lot of insecurity and fear.
He started attending a church and still had the same fears. Then one day a minister came out to preach and called him out from the platform. “Whose child are you?”, he asked. Then a smile began to erupt on the minister’s face.
“Oh, I know whose child you are. The resemblance is uncanny. You are a child of God”.
In that moment, the young man was freed from his fears to embrace who he was born to be, and later became a governor in the United States.
You and I have the power to be able to do that for others. To speak destiny into people’s fears. To remind people who they were born to be.
And don’t we all love people in our lives who have done that for us? Everyone can remember a parent, a teacher, a friend, a minister, even a stranger who may have spoken out words that called out your eternal value.
We love it in TV shows and movies too. The Lion King’s Rafiki reminded Simba he was the true king, no matter how much he ran from it. Mickey and Apollo helped Rocky move beyond being a deadbeat or one distracted by success into becoming a great fighter.
In a more recent example, Captain Pike of the new Star Trek (which is ridiculously good and was an additional motivation for this post) continually speaks to the great value of his crew, and gets great results. In fact one article even called him an example of leadership for the new world.
Are you speaking life? Here are some ideas on how to be a great encourager if you’re looking to get started or get better.
The third, and the hardest, which is out of our control, is how much of a person’s redeemed potential they are willing to embrace. And this is where the real beauty, and the real pain, of the work is in.
It’s true you and I know a lot of great people. But even great people get stuck. And more tragically, as much as you can recognise and call out someone’s greatness and destiny, it is ultimately up to them how much of it they will embrace.
And many people simply just don’t. They hear who they’re supposed to be, they even know it and have been active in it for years in their life, and yet they can still walk away from it. They could have been a great husband or wife at one point, a great father or mother, a well respected friend, a leader worth following… and all of it they can completely abandon to the detriment of themselves and those around them.
But, for the ones who will embrace it, what a great reward awaits you both.
When King David was escaping from Saul who was after his life, he ran into the middle of nowhere where he met what Scripture describes as a bunch of disheartened rejects essentially. And it goes on to say that David became their captain. Fast forward a bunch of years, from this group of “losers” came some of David’s Mighty Men, who were well renowned for their leadership capability and military abilities.
Such is the power of when someone believes in you.
People are like seeds. Or soil. If the farmer puts in no work to recognise good soil, to cultivate it, to foster it, to plant the seeds, to continue to invest in them, then nothing will ever grow. Despite his best efforts on this front, there may still be some that don’t grow.
And like the farmer, we should still put the work in with people. Not for the ones who won’t embrace who they’re meant to be, but for the ones who will. In doing so we could be a part of the process where you plant, I water, and God brings the increase.
If we put in the work, it’s true they may not get to where they’re meant to be. But if we don’t put in the work, they definitely won’t. Or at least they won’t have the power or the help of your significant voice to help them get there.
Imagine if your wife or husband was the best version of themselves. Imagine if your children grew up to become the people they were born to be. Imagine if your friends always had someone who believed in their destiny and who was a friend to their future.
Are you an environment that people grow in?
You and I know a lot of great people and have a unique opportunity to be able to be that source of life for others. We just need to be willing to recognise it and call it out, and then leave room for the other person to embrace it or do whatever else they will.
It is sad and painful when people abandon their best. And so many do. But if we give our best, we will no doubt see people at theirs.
That’s certainly been the case for me. I have been hurt so many times when people haven’t been what I’ve hoped they could be, and no doubt I have hurt others when I’ve failed to live up to my own potential.
But in continuing to look for the gold in others and call it out in them, I am continually blown away by just how much greatness there is all around me. And I know it could be true for you as well.
Because you and I know a lot of great people. And maybe they just need someone to remind them of that fact.