Telling People They Are Awesome

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.

You’re Totally Awesome, Dude

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.

Pixie dust looks pretty tawdry in the real light of day, and quite unnecessary.
Spirit of the Night

Spirit of the Night
Grimshaw, John…
Buy This Allposters.com

Don’t Worry, Be Happy -the right way

In an essay on how to help others and yourself by being more proactive when worry hits, The White Hot Truth is a little painful, but I needed to read something like that today.

When I worried about rejection and how I may have unwittingly offended someone. Again. I worry about lots of things, and don’t even realize that it is worry, but this has put a little perspective on it.

Worry obstructs possibility. Concern is pro-active.
Worry weighs things down. Concern can rise to the occasion.
Worry is wistful. Concern is penetrating.
Worry tangles. Concern peels back the layers.
Worry gossips. Concern enrolls.

Family- Where Art Thou?

This summer fulfilled the personal goal begun last year, focusing on family and reconnecting frayed ties. It was imperfect in results, but some important gaps were bridged. Along the journey some insights emerged.

Triggering some thoughts was a son’s question,“What useful purpose does a family reunion serve?” in response to the resurrected attempt to meet together with scattered members of my paternal side. In light of the direction our culture has taken in its view of defining family (during my generation’s watch), the question is quite valid. In fact, it is one I posed in my own early family life, in my twenties. We are making our own family circle, what good can former generations, or far flung members of a shared progenitor contribute to us? And what difference do we make to them?

The thoughts took me back to the time when the definition of family, and the outright attack on the benefit of a nuclear family unit made its way through the issues of the day. Parental rights, child’s rights, definition of marriage, divorce issues, and gay rights have all held interest in the destruction of traditional views of what purpose and benefit is contained in the form of a family and its call on relationships. The change in our thinking is accomplished … and so it can be something of a personal epiphany (as it was to me) that reconnecting along bloodlines might hold some esoteric value. Esoteric because we no longer hold a sense of belonging to each other through family ties as a general way of thinking, even though individual families may have kept such values alive for themselves…. not unlike the Biblical example of “the house of the Rechabites“. I’m not saying it is all gone to anarchy, just that it has dropped precipitously in our priorities and view of relationship benefits. It had to, given the widespread practice of divorce.

So, we have had a general disparagement of the traditional family that is fully accepted in our present culture.

I could pursue closing the arguments on that statement, but I think you can follow up the line of thinking on your own. The practices we follow in our daily lives further deteriorates the value of family ties. We don’t have time to make our own family meals, or to sit down together on a daily basis. We don’t have time to sit around and talk, especially when it can become unpleasant…. it disturbs our TV show schedule or our video game, or our computer time. We walk around in our own world of ipods, and make it distinctly difficult for someone to hold a conversation with us. A bother. A distraction. Uninteresting.

Family ties can be seen as anachronistic in such a world.

Such a world stacks the importance of self on top, with “others” playing a supporting role, at best. And should they seem unsupportive, then they may face “the axe”. And we move through a life with a constantly changing set of relationships which largely are based in “what we do“. Who we are, especially in terms of relationships, becomes increasingly irrelevant.

So you can see how a family reunion may suffer in our view of its benefit and the worth of spending time and effort .

This whole aspect of our attitude towards, and value of nuclear and traditional family structure, affects not only something like whether we meet together in a reunion, it is evident in our other structures of relationship, as well. It affects church, business corporate, and community relationships as well. We are dependent on making a case of how something benefits the individual. The group identification largely remains empty. But with a placeholder.

That placeholder can become something very threatening in many ways. Largely because the need for belonging in the human experience does not simply disappear. It searches, it waits, and it needs to be fulfilled in some way. Rejection and denial in no way diminishes this wiring in our psyche.

I still have some of the story to tell. Maybe this will be a “mini-series”.

A couple quotes to consider:

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation” ~ Margaret Mead.

The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born. ~Pearl S. Buck

Families, Relationships, Marriage

I spent some time with a branch of my father’s family this weekend. We spent much conversation “catching up”, but also discussing some of the dynamics of the three topics of the post title. I don’t think one of the things discussed was uncomplicated. There are so many shadings in human relationships, and rarely are our actions or those of others completely clear and simple… or maybe I should say few are “stand alone”.

For the past few years I have had this stream of thought about how much our lives influence others. Sometimes that influence is so slight and transitory that it is almost invisible, but certain circumstances highlight it. We are presently in the throes of summer Midwest heat, but much of this thought process took form in depth of winter; by happenstance when traveling in the passenger seat, looking through the window and observing tracks left in the snow. Those tracks left a story that I, in my fast moving vehicle, could read in an instant ….the meandering of a pet dog, the trail of someone checking their mailbox, the startled jump and changed direction of a deer. All were pieces of a story that unfolded in impressions upon the snowy white pages of the landscape. Leaving their marks upon the places they had tread, one could piece together whether they had hurried or whether they had followed their habitual trail, whether they belonged there or had wandered warily within boundaries designed to curtail them.

The thought, then, was of how often we tread within the realm of another’s life, for however long or brief a time; sometimes with enough repetitions and weight to wear a trail, but more often thoughtlessly rambling through. We are unaware, except by brief accident of circumstance, that our mark was left within time upon a persons experience, pressed in the earthen face of their lives. It made me think of how much more careful we might be with each other if our eyes could spiritually see our impact.

For good or for harm, but certainly for something. We often matter in ways we cannot fathom.

The conversations reminded me of this, and of truths which remain whether we recognize or live by them or not. we can read research or articles that assure us that our children do fine without us, or that we do fine without the nurture or care of our parents, or a relationship, over, is forgotten and left behind. We carry our stories of life, and they are somehow or other written into the terrain of our lives. As the mark of a long ago tree or ancient edifice might be seen long after its physical existence is erased in every other way. Some of us understand these truths, despite the assurances otherwise…. and some of us trip upon them disconcertingly, as we move on in life.

We carry the imprint of our family, of our friends, and even of strangers that cross our paths…. and they also carry those we have made. And are making.

Shhh! Don’t Talk About It

Adrian Warnock shared some of the points from Ed Stetzer’s post about research findings on the effects of pornography.

Would it make a difference to you if you knew more about these points?

  • Pornography is addictive, and neuroscientists are beginning to map the biological substrate of this addiction.
  • Married men who are involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives. Wives notice and are upset by the difference.

Or others? Given the stories about Tiger Woods which hit the news, and became the hot topic of the month, do you think there might be some of this influence at the beginning of his present troubles? Makes me wonder.

People don’t just throw away their marriage and reputation for nothing… there is a hook in there somewhere. Here is the research link, Ed’s pdf document

Which do you want?

Think about this: is your goal to get the most out of people or the best out of people?
You typically can’t get both.-Michael T. Kanazawa

via Six Disciplines

Loving the Unlovely

A long time ago I saved this in my drafts- time to publish, albeit without comment from me.

A Place For the God-Hungry: And Now a Word From Johnny Cash

So what do I communicate to the people in the church I serve?

* You really don’t measure up. (“A real Christian would be doing_________”)
* I really don’t value you as much anymore because of what you said or did.
* Your relationship with me is dependent upon your performance.

Could it be the Lord would like to use you in your church and community to communicate his love?

Perhaps you need to reflect upon one of the following questions:

* How do people feel when you have been around them for a little while? Do they feel encouraged or de-valued?
* Could it be that some come away from a conversation with you feeling there is no way to ever measure up in your eyes?
* Do people see that you value their world? Or do they sense that you only value your world?
* Do people know and feel that even if you disapprove that you will love them anyway?
* Do you need to communicate to your husband/wife/children that you know them and that you love them anyway?

further on on penetrating questions :

So what do I communicate to the people in the church I serve?

* You really don’t measure up. (“A real Christian would be doing_________”)
* I really don’t value you as much anymore because of what you said or did.
* Your relationship with me is dependent upon your performance.

Could it be the Lord would like to use you in your church and community to communicate his love?

Perhaps you need to reflect upon one of the following questions:

* How do people feel when you have been around them for a little while? Do they feel encouraged or de-valued?
* Could it be that some come away from a conversation with you feeling there is no way to ever measure up in your eyes?
* Do people see that you value their world? Or do they sense that you only value your world?
* Do people know and feel that even if you disapprove that you will love them anyway?
* Do you need to communicate to your husband/wife/children that you know them and that you love them anyway?

via Hannah Im