Automatic Politeness

(Original Publish Date: 1/13/2007)

I remember the fun I had growing up with my friends all around. We used to play with baseball cards in the summer, and GI Joe’s in the winter, during the fall we’d be out raking leaves just to jump in them in between games of football in someone’s yard. Spring time would bring out the kites, some of them homemade, others with a better pedigree but all being held by a friend while one of us ran our fastest to send it vaulting into the stratosphere.

I didn’t have to look far at that age for encouragement, it came with just about every friend I had. We all knew the unspoken commitment our friendship brought to cheer each other on, to cheer for longer jumps on the bikes, acrobatic catches while playing football, drawing a cartoon precisely as it appeared in the Sunday comics, and even to sending a little redheaded girl a note asking if she liked you (“please check one of the boxes, yes or no”).

Here I am reflecting again. At age 48 I’ve arrived at a station in life that should be wonderfully satisfying, yet in looking around, I am without someone by my side. I have discovered I am better with someone than without. Some brag about wanting a romantic partner but not needing one, that wouldn’t be me. I want to be with someone that knows how to encourage , and someone that will respond well to encouragement.

Ok, so how does all this relate to the subject of encouragement, you may be asking yourself now? Let me explain…

One summer I witnessed my son and his two friends sitting near the bottom of a grassy slope in front of my home. All three had their Game Boy’s out working on making it to new, unexplored levels of Pokemon, a game series in which they each possessed a cartridge. When one would get stumped, the other would offer to help them through that part of the game. Hi-five’s abounded as they reveled in their accomplishments, and consoling pats on the back when certain failure occurred at each new level.

I started, once again, to see the value of encouragement through the eyes of my son. You see, you lose nothing to offer the kind word, or the hug, or pat on the back, but it could cost you everything to withhold it.

With simple words of encouragement I found I could help ‘re-frame’ a person’s view of themselves. I’ve never offered those words without actually believing in what I’m saying and that’s the key. You can see the person for who they are because you have a view of the forest. You see the bigger picture. They don’t see it because they are right up next to the trees and can only look up and see one perspective.

I wouldn’t recommend dating someone who is a ‘project’, someone in need of rescuing. That’s the pit fall for a person like me who would prefer to be WITH someone, it’s easy to cross the line of merely being an encourager, a sojourner, to being a rescuer.

However, dating someone who just needs to see themselves through your eyes long enough to get back on track…..that’s worth the risks. Or partnering in business with someone who was a true visionary at one time but was beaten down recently from life’s experiences….. that’s worth the risks.

Somewhere along the way I lost the innocent, and even automatic politeness of telling my friends they’d done a wonderful job at something. As I grew into my teens and subsequently into my twenty’s the pressure to succeed became greater than the reward of getting “there” with someone at my side. This whole marvelous concept of recognizing others was lost, or at the very least suppressed, for years.

This isn’t about being a ‘glass half full’ type, it’s about meeting people at THEIR point of need, even when they don’t see it that way. If only 50% of the glass has something in it, fill it up again!

If I use the model of my son for a guide, it’s time to get out the Game Boys and hang out with friends and lovers who will join me in a journey to greatness, everyone hi-fiving, and saying ‘good job’ along the way. And when set backs happen, be there to say “Geez, that happened to me once, you’re not alone. Want me to play this next level for a bit to help?”  True encouragement is not just words but actions as well. Like my son and his friends.

It’s winter, anyone have some GI Joe’s hangin’ around we can play with?

Thanks for reading this far.


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4 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    Tim ~ you touched on some really great points….you took me back today of fifth grade, Mr. Shaffer's class, a boy named Stevie Stroud sent me a valentine….it said, "Kim, I love you…do you love me? Check the box yes or no……I blushed, smiled and checked yes but kept the valentine and whispered my answer in his ear. To this day, I still have that valentine. And my brother and I used to play a game with my barbies and his GI Joes…until he got too cool for that…:) Great, great points. Thanks so much for sharing and helping me remember Stevie today.

  2. Rose J. says:

    I think that what would be most valuable in finding a partner then would be to have that person be your absolute best friend. As you have pointed out, friends encourage one another, support one another, they are one another's cheerleader in life. To find your best friend and to love them as your life partner, and to experience friendship, love, and passion, would be pure nirvana. I hope you find that special someone in your life. I hope you find that someone who will hold your hand when life seems down, and tell you, "I am here for you." I pray you find that person you can hold in your arms, comfort them, and when she is feeling discouraged, you can say, "I believe in you." You deserve that opportunity.

  3. unknown says:

    You have been a wonderful listener, encourager, and friend. Thank you for re-framing my view, Tim!
    With love,

  4. Debra ^j^ says:

    Your writing today hit me deeply, Tim. Allow me to share with you my story~

    I have a friend that I admire for many reasons, but mainly for their courage to continue to persevere despite the road blocks they come up against.

    I have “watched” this friend boldly walk through the “storms” of their life and grown from having faced whatever fears they came face to face with. I have been their “cheerleader” for a little over a year now. Some of my encouragements have been personal in nature, others comments left for them to read, and others prayers I have said lifting them up to God. Not a day has gone by since I met my friend that I do not do at least one of these things for them in hope their life will become smoother and more joy-filled. I want so much for my friend to find their JOY!

    The best part of this friendship for me has been how much this person has affected my life by encouraging me to be the best me possible. Because of who this person is and how they have interacted with me and the things they have said to me, I have made many changes in my life. Because of a confrontation from my friend on my faith, I now attend and I am involved in a church after not for the last 8 years. An unsettling feeling I had last year is gone and I am again growing spiritually and developing a closer relationship with God, putting God first, something I have had difficulty with in the past when involved with a man. My friend got me involved in blogging! It is very healing and uplifting for me to reach out to others and share my inspirational writings and my poems and to know perhaps I am helping someone with my words. I have taken a stand at my workplace because of my friend’s encouragement. I feel more empowered now for having done so. I have written many wonderful poems inspired by my friend because of whom and what they have become to mean to me and my life, which I will be including in my poetry book. I could go on, but to sum up, I am a better person today for knowing my friend. I thank God everyday for the gift of this friend crossing my path and becoming beautifully interwoven into the tapestry of my life.

    Sadly, this friend and I had a misunderstanding. There was anger, hurt, and silence that pulled us apart. All is forgiven on my part and I am, in my gently way, reaching out to my friend, but the silence remains.

    Sometimes we have exactly what we need and are looking for already in our life and forget to "look over our shoulder" and see a friend that has been standing there always for us.

    Friends are gifts from God to be treasured, nurtured, and held gently in your arms. I have grown to love this friend as a kindred spirit and miss them every day.

    Thank you for listening to my story,