When I look back on my life, one of the things I’m most grateful for are the people who saw me as I truly am, imperfections and all, and yet chose to believe in my best.
I think of the words of encouragement my mom wrote to me when I feared taking my first college biology lab exam. How could anyone in the world memorize so much information? But she wrote to me, “The human mind is an incredible instrument, and you will lick that biology lab exam.” Just a little encouragement moved me forward, and gave me a newfound confidence to aspire higher.
I think of one of my most beloved theology professors in college who must have clearly seen that I could be a better writer, but chose instead to focus on my strengths and encouraged me to pursue graduate school. “You really can do it, and you have a gift to give.” Strangely enough . . . I found that I could.
One of the things that I’ve really come to value in my motherhood is seeing my own children’s vulnerabilities. I mean, as moms, we see it all! We see the whole range of their imperfections (who knew there could be so much bickering and stress in a ten minute ride in the van! . . . Sigh . . .), but we also see their unique gifts and strengths.
As a mom, sometimes seeing them this closely gives rise to some fear and questions in my own heart. “Will he do the assignment on time?” “Will my shyest one be able to recite her speech in front of the class?” Because my children are my heart, I worry with them and for them. But then I realized something.
I have a very powerful influence on inspiring their greatness. When they come to me with their own fears about what they can do or not do, “How can I memorize this for school? It’s too hard!” I recognize that I can err on the side of encouragement, like so many mentors in my life did for me.
To “en-courage” literally means “to put the courage in.” To “dis-courage” means “to take away one’s courage.” I’m finding it to be delightful (and a little scary), but mostly delightful, to err on the side of encouragement—to help them move past the limited beliefs that they may hold about themselves and to help them create a new vision and then to watch them take action and achieve their goals. I love seeing that little cheeky smile when they’ve achieved something they thought they couldn’t. Now they know they have what it takes . . . and now, oh my goodness . . . what else will they do?
So today, I’m going to focus on believing in their best. To believe something is to trust that it’s there, even if you don’t see it. To believe in their best means to think about the best possible outcome, and in love, choose to affirm it. Maybe it will happen today, maybe it won’t. I surrender the expectation. But I know that there’s a little something different in their strut and their smile, when they know that their mama who sees them so closely, weaknesses and all, believes in them.
Who knew that just a little erring on the side of encouragement can so profoundly change a life, but so it does.