“Please ma’am,” I said, “I’m looking for cardboard to buy,” as the back lab door swung open at the hospital. I was picking up cardboard from the lab, as I do when running the garbage detail. It was a silly, impulsive joke, told to a busy woman, but she quickly replied, “I’ll sell it to you for a dollar a box”.
“Put it on my tab,” I replied as we both smiled. I felt happy as I walked down the corridor. She could have just given me an odd stare and left me feeling stupid, but she jumped into my joke and we both had a light moment during a long work night.
The subject I’m discussing today isn’t directly addressed in the Bible, but is in harmony with a number of Scriptures, which encourage us to lift up each other, such as Ephesians 4:29b which exhorts us to speak: ” . . . only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
So what does playing along with a dumb joke about cardboard have to do with any of this? It is simply this; it built me up, making me feel funny, lightening the moment, perhaps for both of us. Have you ever noticed that you can have the same interaction with several different people and come away with entirely different feelings after each? It might be just a look, a smile, a comment or an interchange, but some folks boost us more than others. You feel smart around them. Or funny. Or interesting. Or important. They’re enjoyable to be around.
Part of this is their personality. It just evokes certain sorts of responses. This is a gift. But a lot of it stems from us and what we bring to the encounter. Certain of us just have, or have developed a build-up personality, leaving others encouraged or refreshed, while others of us are flat or distracted, and still others are emotional black holes – sucking in energy from those they’re around. I want to be the first person; more specifically, I want Holy Spirit energy to flow through me to those around me, lifting them up; drawing them toward Christ. There are many ways to do this, but one of the ways is helping them feel good about themselves; to feel enjoyed or liked or appreciated. This leads to our first question:
How can I help others feel good about themselves?
1. I help others feel good about themselves by paying solid attention to them
Even if the encounter is quite short, look them in the eye if possible, listen carefully to what they’re saying, show that you hear them and understand. James 1 talks about being “quick to listen, slow to speak. . .”(James 1:19). leads to the second point:
2. I help others feel good about themselves by treating them with respect
Our demeanor speaks volumes. Our tone of voice, facial expression, body language, willingness to listen, appropriate politeness, and so on send a message. We don’t have to necessarily agree with them, or like everything about them to show them respect. I’m talking here about genuine respect, not being patronizing or showing empty civility. They are fellow human beings made in the image of God, whom He loves and, hopefully, so do we.
3. I help others feel good about themselves by noticing them
Even just a friendly acknowledgment can mean a lot – a quick smile or wave or nod or greeting. Have you ever walked into a room filled with a group and been completely ignored? No malice is usually intended, but that can feel isolating and lonely. Even a “good-by” to a person leaving is often appreciated. They’ve been at least noticed. And those who serve us every day, enjoy being noticed as more than just a human vending machine.
4. I help others feel good about themselves by including them
Sometimes, after church, when I’m having a fairly light conversation with a person, and I see someone waiting off to the side wanting to talk with me. I’ll turn to them, explain what we’re discussing and draw them into the conversation. Or we might invite people to join our table, or sit next to us, or come to our group. Here’s a tiny one, use the word “us” more often.
5. I help others feel good about themselves by praising or thanking them
This is especially powerful if done in front of the person where they can hear it, but don’t hesitate to do it elsewhere. Even then, it will often get back to them indirectly. Don’t overdo it. Usually, a quick “nice job”, or “man, you guys got a lot done”, will work. Be genuine. Then be quiet. Too much sounds like flattery.
6. I help others feel good about themselves by liking them
This one’s harder to control, since emotions in general aren’t always under our command. But, one of life’s best feelings is being genuinely enjoyed or appreciated. It’s a boost. This can be communicated in so many ways, even through our eyes. You don’t have to approve of everything they do to find something to like in others. Liking others in a common way is more of an attitude; an appreciation of the fact that people are made in God’s image, with all that implies.
7. I help others feel good about themselves by tag-teaming with them
Sometimes, after someone tells a weak joke, or says something not that interesting, I can jump in and add extra punch to what they’ve said, either by humor (“Good point, let’s kill the boss!”), or by using it as a lead-in for further discussion (“George, you bring up a really good point. Work is often boring. What do you guys think we can do about that?”). Sometimes by using the word “us”; by identifying with them we can tag-team with them (“Yeah, work can be boring).
8. I help others feel good about themselves by identifying and emphasizing their strengths
Find the general areas where they do best and make it a point to mention them once in a while (“Lady, I wish I could organize as well as you do. You seem to have knack for it”). Believe or not, sometimes people are so focused on what they don’t do well, that they overlook their strengths. And I haven’t found many people who make the effort to notice and affirm the gifts of others. Point them out to others (“Pete here, has a knack for mechanics”).
9. I help others to feel good about themselves by being positive with them
All of the above is positive, but I’m being more specific here. When we communicate others, there’s often a negative or a positive way to do it. The positive way is preferable when possible, using smiles, pleases, thank you’s, gentle words, and diplomacy. In leadership, I often find it better to tell them what to do than what not to do.
10. I help other to feel good about themselves by connecting them to God
Feeling good is pleasant, but ultimately, being good is what matters most. The only one who can truly accomplish that in our lives is God. He sent His Son to earth to die, rise again, and offer us a way to be reconciled to Him. In the end, that’s all that truly matters.