My disclaimer on this post is that I’m going to use illustrations that come from my experience in the church, but don’t think that people act like typical people just because they belong to a certain socio-economic or religious group. If you do that, you are going to miss the whole point.
Pixie Dust and The Wizard Behind The Curtain
Before I get to that story, let me tell you about an old blogpost I re-read from Kathy Sierra. Called “Pixie Dust & The Mountain of Mediocrity. The gist is that people use marketing techniques to game the system and it’s that “pixie dust” that is promoted to be the magic answer to the branding and promotion of ones product.
It is not unlike the last topic, taking to task the online and marketing Gurus who provide methods, for a fee, to making you and/or your customers (clients..fans….whoever you want to win over) an overnight success. Even if they are well-meaning, plenty of so-called experts aren’t really helping you to be what truly makes you awesome: being the best you can be, living to your potential, inspired to rise to greater heights of what you hope to be or accomplish.
Buzzwords, Buzzword techniques, and the fast path to wealth and awesomeness is something people will pay for, and that means a lot of gamers are going to enter the field to make sure they can take advantage of it. That also means there is going to be an aftermath of broken dreams, and the disillusioned.
Sierra succinctly sums it up:
There is a world of difference between helping someone *appear* more awesome and helping them actually BE more awesome.
And that in some ways reminded me of a small, but rather sorry, experience I had a long time ago that left me with a distinct sense discomfort that helped shape how I like to deal with people to this day.
A Moment of Clarity
I had gone to one of those big Christian conferences that are comprised of all sorts of people from different denominations, cultures, and backgrounds. It was one that had really pumped up my own sickly and struggling grip on walking out my faith. It wasn’t called a Revival, but it was effectively working as one for me.
Maybe because of that, I was a bit more open, hopeful, and vulnerable to what people said to me. Anyway, after one of the services (there are several at this sort of convocation), a well meaning man spoke to me. He said something very positive, something like “I see you are -positive ‘blah,blah,blah’, and you will -positive ‘blah,blah,blah'”. I felt very encouraged, I felt that he had been moved by some inner insight to share that with me.
As the conference moved on I happened to pass by that man speaking to someone else, using the very same words, the very same expression, the very same way. They weren’t special insights meant for me. This well meaning man was gaming the system.
I suppose he felt this was his ministry of encouragement or something, but for me, it was a searing disappointment, because it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel sincerely anything. I felt my sense of trust was breached and trampled. I didn’t ask for his words, and wasn’t even hoping or looking for them. He offered me something artificial, when I truly needed the genuine. He sprinkled around some pixie dust, because it had good effects on people. For him.
And to this day, as convinced as I am of the importance of affirmation and encouragement, if I cannot garner together the individualized and sincere words that are infused with my own sense of care and compassion, or affection or desire to connect… I don’t want to give a substitute. I don’t believe in “placeholder” love, that consists of words or token actions merely meant to make someone feel good for the moment.
That is a terribly selfish thing to do. It is pixie dust spread around to make the giver feel better about themselves. If you tell someone they are awesome with that motivation, spare them.
They are better off without your false words and insincere methods. The world is better off without them.
How To Tell Someone They Are Awesome
First -to outline the negative shape before drawing in the detail- do not tell someone how much they matter or how great they are when showing them is better. Words will often cloud the message, even if you intend to mean them. That too often turns into “meaning well”, and you know what the old saying is about good intentions.
If words are all you have, tell people something that you can follow through on… a generally inclusive way of telling them they matter and are awesome “I look for the beauty and glory in you”… because I look for that in all. And then make that your purpose, your own rule of life.
Do something for them that helps them be the best version of themselves.
Then when you tell them you think they are awesome, or that they matter to you, they will trust it, and it will build something meaningful into their lives.
Give them tools of value, words of value, and actions of value. Take something of yourself, and invest it in those tools, words, and actions. Infuse something of your love and care into what you give to others. That will make them feel awesome. Then you can tell them they are awesome and might even have an opportunity to share something that will make them even more awesome.
The outcome of that is what they do with that thing themselves, what they get to experience from it.
This has its way of spilling over and making us feel pretty awesome as well, but that is not the goal or the point of what we tell others, or what we share with them.
What Am I Really Saying?
What really works is love. Love is never cheap, and has no substitution. Everyone needs and wants it, and when you give words or anything to another person with real love attached, you give the world what it really needs.