Much like I’ve been noticing the importance of input from sources like books and blogs, I’ve also been noticing how people’s words have the power to lift up or bring down. It’s one of those little facts you’re always aware of, sort of an in–the–back–of–your–mind kind of thing, but it’s become more prominent to me through my teaching career and through being pregnant. It’s got me thinking about how I speak to people and whether or not I’m being an encourager.
My first year of teaching was really tough, as it almost always is for new teachers. There were plenty of people who were willing to talk with me about it, including my mentor teacher, and I noticed how sensitive I was to what people said and how they said it. I often thought I was even being overly sensitive—and I probably was sometimes—but I think it was just a matter of tone and how important tone is to how people hear what you say. Dismissive comments like “You’ll be fine. It gets better,” or “Whatever, let it go,” were neither hurtful nor helpful, and some comments were downright detrimental, but the encouraging words stuck out the most. I remember the wise teacher who told me, “Just make it to Thanksgiving. Trust me,” and turned out to be right, just as I remember the kind teacher who said, “You are doing more good than you can possibly notice.” And I’ll never forget the teacher who told me, “Sometimes we’re simply planting the seed. We might not get to see it blossom or even see it sprout, but the fact is, we planted it.” Oh, how many times I’ve repeated that to myself over the years!
Once I was more of a seasoned teacher, I made it my mission to be as encouraging as I could be toward new teachers. I honestly never would have made it without the people who said those kind words to me, and it seemed the least I could do was to pay it forward. I know that it helped those new teachers, and [selfishly] it just felt good.
Now that I’m expecting, I’ve had to learn to let go of the negativity (and get out of those conversations whenever possible). One acquaintance likes to point out where and how quickly I am gaining weight (“Oh, you REALLY look pregnant in your face!”), while another can’t wait to jump in with something negative. If I mention a craft I’m working on, she’ll say, “Enjoy crafting now! You won’t make another thing for 18 years!”. If I talk about needing a nap, she can’t cut me off quickly enough to ask, “You do realize you’re never going to sleep again once you have an infant, right?”. I mean, my goodness. Yes, let’s have realistic expectations and not paint parenthood as the easiest job in the world, but do we really need to jump to making it sound like the worst thing ever?
My husband and I are friends with a couple who have a two–year–old. They both went to high school with my husband, so the three of them have known one another for a while. We have a lot in common with these friends—including our first names, oddly enough—and we love spending time with them because of our similar interests and senses of humor. They’re also really easy people to be around. I’m never worried about if my house is spotless or what I’m wearing; they couldn’t care less, and our friendship is past all that. Something I’ve been appreciating about them more than ever is that they are encouragers. They’re so excited we’re expecting because they’re the only ones in my husband’s group of friends who are parents, so they are really looking forward to sharing that. They are also awesome parents, informed and careful in their decision–making but also laidback enough to enjoy parenting. They came over with their little girl a few weekends ago, and we had the best time catching up on life and talking about parenthood.
Something that really encouraged me was how they talked about the changes that come around with an infant but how those changes balance out. They laughed about losing sleep and shrugged, saying, “You get through it.” They talked openly about having no qualms about leaving their daughter with her grandparents so that they could have time for just the two of them. They also talked about how much they adore their daughter and how fun it is to be her parents. It wasn’t in a tone of Look at us, we’re perfect! Parenthood is easy! We don’t know what’s wrong with people who seem stressed; it’s a beautiful, wonderful experience all the time. It was simply the truth about having a balanced perspective, and it encouraged us to no end. I doubt they set out to have that effect—I’m sure they were just being honest—but they had that effect all the same. My husband and I have mentioned parts of that conversation in the weeks since then, and it continues to shape how we’re feeling.
The Bible speaks to this issue, too.
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
“Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3
Let’s be encouragers, shall we? You never know the positive effect it might have!