Something Only A Friend Can Fully Bring Out

We raised the topic like a glass at a wedding, full of anticipation — and yet we sat there,  staring at the floor, waiting —  silence.

I have a small group of good friends, my inner circle. We refer to ourselves as a ‘band of brothers’ (a reference to Stephen Ambrose book, “Band of Brothers”). We like the term. It reminds us of our need to be there for each other, that we are not alone – we have intimate allies who have our back, who believe in us, who we can turn to.

Over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other well, and we’re pretty good about spotting blind-spots in each other’s lives. So, I made the suggestion a while back that we take some time to reflect and affirm the ‘glory’ of each other’s life. (By ‘glory’ I mean the weightiness and strength of our life. God’s work in us, expressed, our effect on others and on our world.)

RaiseGlassAtWeddingSo, the date arrived and we gathered to talk. We raised the topic like a glass at a wedding, full of anticipation — and yet we sat there,  staring at the floor, waiting for someone to speak — silence.

Why is that?  We were excited about the idea. We’ve walked together for years – this should have been easy. Joyful. Confirming. Celebrative. But it wasn’t. It was awkward. When called upon to recognize, reflect and affirm the glory we see in each other’s lives, we floundered.  And frankly, it really rattled me. What does this say about our friendships? Is this just normal? Just true of most relationships?

How about you? What’s been your experience?

Let me ask it this way — how often do those closest to you echo and affirm the ‘glory’ of your life?  How often do you affirm it in them?

The truth is, the struggle is common. We all struggle to do this. Jesus himself recognized it, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (Mark 6:4) We cheer for our favorite sports teams and celebrities and our personal heroes. We recognize their effect upon us and we tweet and facebook and quote and publicize and promote them, all the while neglecting the same for those closest to us. But, it doesn’t have to stay this way. We can change this (we must) — more is at stake then we realize.

We must begin to verbalize and express — to reflect-back and affirm the glory we see in the lives of those around us. I’m not talking about giving a 30-minute monologue or a research paper. And I’m not talking about simple encouragement or fluff & puff — generic statements like “You’re such a great guy” are not helpful enough. (Not that a few kind words every now and then are a bad thing, but…)

I’m talking about specific, deeper, transcendent feedback…

“I love the way you were able to see _________ …”
“That was awesome the way you did _________ …!”
“I’ve noticed you always seem to know what to do when _________ …”
“You really seem to have a handle on _________ …”
“You added so much clarity to that situation _________ …”
“You have a way of _________ …”
“You’re so good at _________ …”
“You’re so _________ …”
“I’ve noticed you really perk up when _________ …”
” …  _________ seems to really make you come alive.”
“You were really in the zone when you _________ …”

Without ongoing feedback and encouragement we can be inclined to give up and abandon efforts, change or altogether stop offering what is best and most true of us. Daily we are pressed and pressured into roles and behaviors for a variety of reasons. If not for the honest reflection and affirmation of what is most true in us, we might fall prey to living from obligation or expectation or duty or pursue validation and acceptance – outside of our true glory. This would be a catastrophic end.

format_quote“No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

We need the eyes and ears of others on our lives.  C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves writes,

format_quote“… In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets…”

5-diamondsWe have blind-spots when we look at our own lives. “By myself…” I am unable to see all my ‘facets’. Like drawing water from a deep well or digging to find an unpolished gem, we need others to see something in us and draw the best out of us. I believe life was designed to be this way.

We exist and thrive within the context of interaction with others. It is one reason why friendships are so crucial. To know and be known is the most powerful of all human experiences. People struggle to recognize glory in themselves, so to know another person’s story provides priceless insight into their life and their glory. And in the reflection and expression of what we see, we bestow a great and needed gift.

If we are to offer, develop, and become all we are individually and uniquely designed to be, we must improve our efforts to reflect and affirm the glory we see in others.

format_quote“There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

Do we fear getting it wrong?  My friends and I sat in silence. Why? You might at first think it simple self-protection, like we don’t want to give each other credit for fear it will take away from our own self-worth and accomplishments. But I know these men and that’s not the case. There must be something deeper going on. Maybe we were afraid of getting it wrong, afraid of making a mistake in assessing each other’s glory, afraid of giving unwarranted credit. Or maybe we were just afraid we’d mess up in our delivery or feel like we had nothing valuable to say.  Whatever the case, we didn’t take full advantage of the chance to reflect and respond.

There is a cost to inaction.

format_quote“Every opportunity has an expiration date and the cost of missing out can be greater than the cost of messing up.” Pete Wilson’s friend

 

We missed out on something great.  I feel like we cheated ourselves out of something, some great blessing. And, it’s not just about this one instance. If we keep relating to each other this way we will KEEP missing out. I don’t want to see that happen… There’s too much at stake.

Let me leave you with a picture. You’re out with friends on a beautiful summer evening. Outside seating. People bustling all around. Pizza and beer and sodas on the table. And, the topic of ‘glory’ comes up. It feels a little awkward. Vulnerable. You’re unsure you want to dive in — but you do. You start it off — sharing an event where you saw your friend at peace with himself, comfortably offering some clarity in a difficult situation. He responds with a simple ‘thank you’ and a shy smile. And the next day, he finds himself in a new situation. He is about to hold back, passively allowing the moment to slide past, but he can’t. He remembers he has a glory that is needed. Here. Now. And he begins…

Are you willing to begin to reflect and affirm, express and verbalize the glory you see in those around you?

What is one step you could take right now?

Here are a few thoughts to help you identify and express the glory you see in others:

  1. Look, listen, and react — NOW. Don’t wait for the perfect time to express it. State the obvious in the moment. Even a word or two can be affirming. Make it a new habit.
  2. Ask Ask God to give you “eyes to see” the work He’s doing in you and those around you. Talk to your closest friends about this. It will feel vulnerable, but ask each other, “What is my effect on you?” “When do you see me really ‘come alive’?”  “What have you noticed over time as my strongest desires?”  “What do you see in me as a growing weightiness and strength?”
  3. Look beyond ‘talent’ and ‘ability’ Begin to look for “desire” and “compelling” instead of simply skills, talent, and ability.  Ask yourself, “What are they compelled to offer (versus what they are simply concerned about)?”  “What desires have been true of them for years?”
  4. Begin to encourage others to live from their glory As you begin to identify their strength of desire and compelling, encourage those around you to begin to offer from it.  Watch for clues they might be holding back and invite them to offer their true heart in the situation.

Hoping in the promise of ever-increasing Glory, [2 Corinthians 3:18]

Mark  

Want to go even deeper?

Check out Gary Barkalow and The Noble Heart. http://www.thenobleheart.com  There you’ll find some really great resources and events that will help you find and offer your ‘glory’.

Image credit: Thank you http://www.cjsoffthesquare.com/2012/12/29/raise-your-glasses-etiquette-tips-for-toasting/

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7 thoughts on “Something Only A Friend Can Fully Bring Out

  1. Truth be told it is a struggle. I recently had to take care of someone and I initially did it because of my love for her, but very soon as my energy and love for her ran out (she’s been really good to me in times past) I had to do it for Jesus. That’s something I’ve worked on for years. I find that if I do it for the person I can get the wrong idea that they owe me, but if I do it as an act of love toward Jesus, who has paid my debts to the point that I cannot repay, it works much better for those relationships in the future.
    I also want to mention that God provided her with neighbors (Pam, Doug and daughter Paige) that stepped in, in such a loving and caring way, that they set the standard for “love thy neighbor”. I can’t say enough about all the ways God helped me through this time.

    PS: Doug and Pam have another daughter, Dana who lives far away, but had she been there I know she would have helped as well.

  2. Thank you for the reminder to encourage others. It’s very easy to become absorbed in our own lives and not appreciate the blessing that others are to us.
    Hebrews 10:24-25King James Version (KJV)
    24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
    25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Scripture courtesy http://www.biblegateway.com)

    • Thanks, Sheryl. You nailed it on the head. But WOW how hard it is to keep this idea front and center. It feels like I struggle to take care of my own heart most days — so finding energy to focus on others seems like a distant idea. But, as I reflect on this, I think I’m thinking of it wrong. It doesn’t make sense to focus on others, BUT when I do I find my own heart strengthened and encouraged and lifted up. It’s like God wired us with this weird interconnectivity to others. What we think might short-circuit us or leave us feeling depleted and neglected actually works the opposite! And we find the truth — it is more blessed to give than to receive (Act 20:35). I want to learn to do this more. What ideas have worked for you to live out Heb 10:24?

      ~ Mark

  3. What a great reminder and challenge! I was particularly struck by this:

    “Without ongoing feedback and encouragement we can be inclined to give up and abandon efforts, change or altogether stop offering what is best and most true of us.”

    We really do need honest feedback and encouragement because the journey is hard. I know this and yet I so often “forget’ to do it for others. Partly, I regret to say, because it is more natural for me to see the flaws in someone else and point them out in an effort to help them see their blind spots. However, without also offering positive affirmation, I can come across as too critical and judgmental.

    I had a recent example of someone who does what you are talking about – frequently and naturally- it other words it is just who he is.

    I am the training coach (the “T”) for the group leaders in Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-Step program started at our church. The ministry leader who is in charge of the program recently sent me an email following a very difficult time we had just come through in which he was under attack and I had felt called to battle on his behalf. He said in part:

    “I want to tell you that you are an amazing woman. Thank you for your support and believing in me. Thank you for standing up with me and fighting the good fight. Thank you for being in my “foxhole”! I am so thankful God has brought you into my life. I don’t think that I could personally “build” a better T coach to work alongside me as well as you do.”

    I cannot tell you how empowering that was for me to hear. This can be a very heavy and discouraging ministry at times. His words lifted me up on eagle’s wings. It made me want to continue, “fighting the good fight.” I want to do this for others. I feel fortunate to have a role model to learn from. It’s not about pride, being puffed up for one’s performance, it’s about hearing Jesus say to us through someone else – “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

    • Hi Joy. Thanks. And thanks for sharing your great thoughts and your story. How powerful is encouragement and feedback. I love hearing your heart for others. That really hits the core of what I was going for. Not just fluff to make us feel better, but specific feedback and encouragement that not only helps us keep our heads up, but draws something great out of us for the sake of others. I love the word you used, “empowering”. Perfect.

      There are so many aspects to this — and some can be taken in bad directions. Namely, using (or relying on) feedback and encouragement as the source or guide for our efforts. That could create a potentially dangerous and dysfunctional scenario. We don’t want a need for validation to capture us. Have you ever run across this? How have you remained grounded?

      • I think at times we all become guilty of this- seeking approval from others so we feel better about ourselves. If we struggle with codependency, as I do, it can be our siren call- an endless need for validation and affirmation from others.

        I have learned over my years in recovery to better recognize when I am falling into that pit. I know when I am doing something- even in my ministry- that I want recognition for. I am totally centered on me. I worry about what people are thinking about me. I try to act in ways that I think will win their approval. I am self-absorbed and I know it.

        I took that action on behalf of my ministry leader because I felt passionately about the injustice being done to him. It was not about me. I didn’t even think about myself. That’s what makes the example I gave so special. I wasn’t asking for recognition or looking for it- it came as a gift from Jesus through this man, spontaneously – from his heart.

        I was blown away by it- not puffed up by it, but actually humbled by his words. That’s how I know the difference.

        • That’s great insight and really practical advice — focus on where I’m focusing. Outward = good. Inward = caution. I’ve struggled with this over the years. It can be hard to tell the difference between accepting feedback and actually being motivated BY the feedback. I like what you have to say. I think others will also find this very helpful.

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