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.)
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.
“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,
“… 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…”
We 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.
“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.
“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:
- 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.
- 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?”
- 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?”
- 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]
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/