Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
February 2, 2020
You Can Make People Feel Good about Themselves
I miss Ben. He died at 84 in 2016. We were friends for 60 years. We were preachers. We never lived in the same town so when we got together we talked for hours – about heartaches and blessings, the sweetness and sorrows of our families, faith discoveries, the keys to church renewal, books we were reading and books we were writing, and the current issues facing the world.
Looking back since Ben’s passing, it dawned on me that there was never a meeting with Ben that left me with negative feelings about myself or him. Every encounter was stimulating, positive and encouraging. In the last decade of his life we met often and never with an agenda. It was, I think, what Solomon called iron sharpening iron – “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Ben had a way of making me feel good about myself, my potential, and my future. Conversations with him generated hope in my soul. I like to believe he felt the same way about me.
Not every encounter with other people is like that. Now and then you walk away from someone feeling disgusted, disturbed or even angry. You can only pray that you never have that same effect on someone else. The truth is, the way we relate to the people we encounter can make a huge difference in their lives. So, if you want that difference to be helpful and not hurtful, these suggestions may be helpful:
One, encourage people. The value of encouragement is enormous. Everybody needs it. Everybody can give it. Nobody lives well without it. Look every day for someone you can encourage. If the clerk who takes my money for a purchase smiles, I usually say, “Thank you for your smile.” It is a small way to encourage someone who is probably struggling to make ends meet.
Two, be kind to people. Yes, our culture has become impersonal. But be friendly anyway. Refuse to return indifference with indifference. A friendly comment spoken with kindness can sometimes change a person’s attitude. Rudeness is the behavior of callous people. Choose to be polite, gracious and courteous to everyone you meet. It will make you feel better about yourself and your kindness could inspire others to follow your example.
Three, say “Thank you.” Thank the people who serve you. I asked my waitress in a restaurant if there was anything I could ask God to do for her. She looked at me for a few seconds, then burst into tears. “Yes,” she said, “please ask God to help me; I am going through a bitter divorce.” I took her hand and prayed for her quietly. As I started to leave, she thanked me for my prayer.
Four, smile at people. A frown requires more energy than a smile. So, save your energy and smile even when you are hurting. Usually you will get a smile in return. I smile a lot because I don’t want a stranger passing me to say, "There goes an old sourpuss; he must have heartburn." We have a choice when we meet people. We can frown, stare indifferently or smile. A friendly smile is always the best choice.
Five, affirm people. Commend them. Before most people can do their best, they need to hear someone say, “You’ve got what it takes!” Never be demeaning or “talk down” to someone. Leave it to lesser souls to belittle people. Find gracious ways to offer others the gift of affirmation. Your support could tip the scales in favor of their success.
Six, forgive people. You hurt people. People hurt you. That’s life. An unforgiving spirit leads to misery. Harsh words unwisely spoken had wounded my friendship with a relative. I tried to ignore it for months. Finally, I swallowed my pride and asked him to forgive me. He did and we have been good friends ever since. Harsh words separate people. But the separation need not be permanent. Pride is an infection of the soul for which forgiveness is the only medicine. Ask the person you have hurt for forgiveness. Forgive the person who has hurt you. There is no other way to peace. So, forgive – and live!
Seven, pray for people. Pray for your family and your friends. Pray for your colleagues. Pray for the Congress. Pray for the President. Pray for our nation. Pray for the persecuted. Pray for the people in prisons. Pray for understanding. Pray that your kindness will allow people to see Jesus in you. Pray that everyone you meet with find joy and peace by trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord. Pray for the poor, especially the homeless. Pray for God to show you ways to be a blessing. Thank God even for your aches and pains; they remind you that you are alive, and life is a precious gift.
There are people in your life who need you. They need your encouragement, your kindness, your prayers, perhaps your forgiveness. You have what it takes to make a huge difference in their lives. I didn’t know this when I was young. A lot of years passed before I made this discovery. But I know it now, and that’s why I am making an effort to be the kind of person who makes other people feel good about themselves. I invite you to join me in this endeavor to be a Christian worthy of the name. + + +