Friday, May 28, 2010

Encouragement: the process of inspiring others to live with greater hope and courage

If I have a choice (and I do) between being a dream stealer or an encourager, I choose the latter. Given the far-reaching consequences of discouraging someone through one’s pathologically critical nature, I hope I never have the label attributed to me.

I am grateful to the people in my life who have expressed their love to me through encouragement. Their positive push, smile, optimism and hope have made a huge difference in my life. The “you can do it, Candy” when things are tough has kept me on course. I owe so much of my own personal resilience to the encouraging words of my parents (along with others) and when my courage fails me I pull from the past and remember their words.

The world is so full of dream stealers. Those who chase, drive or beat out of us our dreams. Like the evil Dementors in Harry Potter, they suck the spirit of peace, hope and happiness and drain it out of their victims.

I admit to having been like a Dementor at times, sucking life and energy out of people and events by my negative attitude. It’s interesting and applicable that in Harry’s world the only way to resist the Dementors is to completely fill yourself with your very best memory. Hopefully those memories for all of us include recalling words of encouragement. Because encouraging words can turn peoples lives around for the good, they can help us stand up to the Dementors, those crazy, mean chronic criticizers who wound and suck all of our courage and joy.

Living a ‘demented’ life, it’s not good. Kenzie introduced me to John Gottman when she studied him extensively at BYU. Gottman is a researcher who has worked in the area of marriages but his findings make sense for families and all relationships as well. He found that there is a number of criticisms compared to praises beyond which a marriage crumbles, and that number is one (1) criticism to five (5) praises. That's right. The minimum to keep a marriage off the rocks is 1 bad:5 good.

Here’s the thing: 1 bad remark for every four good ones is still not that great. And surely, if a marriage must have at least five positives for every negative, then the growing souls of young children, so dependent on the positive regard of their parents must have more.

Given what we know, through social science research and the gospel of Jesus Christ, I can’t really see a place for being critical instead of encouraging, or of being harsh instead of kind. Seems relationships work best when we are gentle with one another.

Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better? Take the time to close your eyes and remember a recent time (or a time during your childhood) when someone tried to motivate you to do better by trying to make you feel bad. Remember exactly what happened. Get in touch with how you felt. Be aware of what you were deciding about yourself, about the other person, and about what to do in the future (even though, most likely, you were not aware that you were making decisions at the time). Did you feel motivated to do better? If so, was it a good feeling?
Or was it based on negative feelings about yourself or the other person? Did you feel motivated to give up or to cover up so you could avoid future humiliation?...Children do not develop positive characteristics based on the feelings and subconscious decisions they make as a result of punishment”

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson, Ed.D

Encouragement. Working along beside. Rooting for one another. It’s the best way to show our love. It’s the Savior’s way. Being a dementor, or a dream stealer of anyone is not something I want to be.
Another quote then:

I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.

Charles Schwab

I'll be working harder on this.


Lindsay said...

I love this. I want to be better at it as well. There is so much negativity in this world. I aspire to be a bright spot of encouragement and uplift to all those I love. Thanks for this Auntie!

katers said...

Wow....I've just spent way too much time catching up on your blog. This post specifically grabbed at me though. Thanks for your thoughts.

By the way, do you know I still think of what you would say every time I play the piano or the organ? You were a fantastic teacher....I wish I lived up to that a bit better, (and after reading your post will try harder to do so)! ;)