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Walter Albritton

August 19, 2018

 

We all need balcony people

 

            Rejection is a lethal poison in human relationships. The world is full of people who have been broken by the cruel rejection of others. But while there is no cure for some of the horrific diseases that destroy people, there is a cure for the brokenness caused by rejection.

            The cure is affirmation. While people suffer and die from rejection, they can survive and thrive in an atmosphere of affirmation. In fact, it is quite impossible to live and do well without affirmation. So, when it comes to the world itself, or to a single family, fullness of life cannot be achieved or sustained without affirmation.

            Joyce Landorf Heatherley introduced me to the idea of seeing people as affirmers or evaluators in her book, Balcony People. It was a concept that changed her life, a theory about people that she learned from the writing of Keith Miller. Heatherly and Miller both called for Christians to learn to affirm one another. To do so requires that we do less evaluating and focus on listening, caring and encouraging others. Be an affirmer, not an evaluator.

            This concept becomes clearer when we recognize the choice we have: to live as “balcony people” or “basement people.” Basement people are friends or family, living or dead, who constantly pull us down with comments like “You are not going to make it” or “You can’t do it.” Balcony people are those who constantly cheer us on by saying “You can do it!” and “I believe in you!”

            This must have been what the writer of Hebrews has in mind when he tells us to run with patience the race before us “since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands.” It excites me to realize that in my balcony is a “great cloud of witnesses” who are leaning over the banisters of heaven pulling for me! What a remarkable blessing – to know that all my life there have been, in my balcony, people living and dead, who have been cheering me on to do the will of my heavenly Father!

            When I am discouraged, it takes the negative language of only one basement person to ruin my day. But while that is true, the greater truth is that it takes the cheers of only one balcony person to help me recover and win the day! Affirmation is heart medicine!

            Imagine how different our society would be if most of us chose to live in the balcony of other people instead of their basement. Every day what makes the news is someone disparaging another person. Some people are so deep in the basement that their denunciations are filled with hatred and ridicule. How great is the need to restore civility to public discourse in our nation! Would to God there were more men and women willing to live in the balcony and offer those with differing opinions common courtesy and respect.

            A helpful personal exercise is to take paper and pen and list the names of persons who are in your balcony. Hopefully the list will be long enough to cheer you up! Then make another list – the names of those persons to whom you are a balcony person. Keep both lists handy for future reference.

            As you move through this day, look for ways to be in the balcony for the people around you. One of them may be struggling because of a negative comment from one of their basement people. You could be the one person whose affirmation could cheer that person up and help them overcome being “put down” or rebuffed by harsh criticism.  

            Then, for the rest of your life, decide to be a balcony person for your friends and family and, sometimes, even strangers. Resist the temptation to be everybody’s evaluator. Cultivate an affirming spirit toward people. If you are wondering if this balcony/basement theory is biblical, remember that it was Jesus who said, “Your care for others is the measure of your greatness.”

Life is too short to waste any of it being hypercritical when you can offer others uplifting affirmation. People need affirmers. You need affirmers. Be one. Live in the balcony! + + +