Do you ever wonder what people will say about you at your funeral? More importantly, do you wonder what they will be thinking about you? How will you be remembered?
A few years ago, while spending a week with my family at Camp-Of-The-Woods in the Adirondack Mountains, one of the speakers, a University professor, made the profound comment that we ought to “say to others what we would normally only say about them.” It is difficult to really know the truth about ourselves—we can so easily deceive the man in the mirror. What a treasure and often underappreciated blessing it is to have others share the truth about us to our faces.
What We Need to Hear
The greatest teachers, coaches, parents, children and friends are the ones who are willing to tell us what we need to hear and not always what we want to hear. Proverbs 27:1b says “Better is an open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
My best friend has the ability to overrule me at any time—I have willingly given him a trump card. Fortunately, he has never had to use it, but having a friend who I trust this much is priceless. He, along with my wife and parents as well as additional friends and family bless me with arrows and embraces alike.
Rare qualities of vulnerability, humility, authenticity, tenderness, courage, and dare I say love, are required to embrace this mindset, both as the giver and the recipient. Most people, if asked, say they want to mature and become better people—better spouses, better parents, better leaders, better servants. However, most people don’t want to be criticized, critiqued or even coached.
We often think we know enough already. Change is difficult. We use defense mechanisms to protect ourselves, since no one wants their weaknesses exposed. It is uncomfortable and often painful to invite others into the dark, unchecked corners of our lives. The redemption, growth and transformation found on the other side validates the battle.
The Criticism Encouragement Ratio
While it is difficult to give or receive an admonishment, encouragement is in equally short supply. Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” When I speak about my wife and children to other people, I am very complimentary. I have been blessed with the most beautiful, amazing wife and it’s not up for debate. (See, I’m doing it now!)
Although I frequently think and reflect on how wonderful my family is and often share it with others, I don’t tell my family enough. The ratio of criticism to encouragement towards my family is not attractive. I have work to do. We need to tell our spouses, children and friends how much they are loved, especially during COVID where physical embraces and intimacy are harder to come by.
Embracing the Mindset
I’ll end where I started. This statement had a great impact in my life and I hope it will in yours as well. “Say to other people what you would normally only say about them.” Think about how to apply this idea not only as the giver, but as the recipient.
Do you have a good friend on the verge of leaving a wake of destruction? Speak up. Do you have a child who needs to know that you love them no matter what? Don’t wait. Plato said that “a life unexamined is not a life worth living.” Dr. Henry Cloud defines integrity as “the courage to meet the demands of reality.” If you embrace this mindset, I am confident that you and those in your circle of influence will be blessed.