When I think about the handful of people who’ve impacted my life, one thing emerges from those relationships. In the midst of my most vulnerable times, each one of them gave me a powerful gift that I so desperately needed – ‘An Encouraging Word’.
I remember distinctively how their belief in me and how their positive thoughts lifted me up so lovingly that I actually believed that I could succeed in spite of my doubts and fears.
Early on as a young manager in my career field, something happened that nearly caused me to quit my job. I felt I had let the whole team down. When I went in to face my boss, he didn’t give me an ass-chewing or belittle me. He listened objectively to the circumstances that had taken place. I waited to hear about his disappointment in me. Instead, he reminded me that I was human, that I wasn’t negligent and that mistakes do happen. No reprimand was necessary. Simply pick yourself back up and carry on with your good work.
I was astounded. I had felt like a total failure – like I wasn’t perfect in his eyes anymore. Yet he didn’t see it that way. This was the first time that any person in authority had treated me this way. It was a transforming event for me. It taught me compassion and the ability to receive grace from others. It taught me that I was good enough in his eyes to keep my job and become a better leader. It made me feel that I was valued. I also learned to accept myself too – flaws and all. It was a major turning point in my life. Thank you, Curtis!
Another time that stands out for me as to how much impact an encouraging word has, was when I was learning to dance, taking lots of lessons and then began to compete in front of lots of other dancers and experienced judges. It was intimidating as hell, especially for a guy like me who didn’t start dancing until I was over 50 years old. Its such an ego-buster for a guy who is supposed to lead a lady on the dance floor, make it all line up with the music being played and also to pretend to project confidence in your dance abilities. I didn’t have all of that. But I was determined to learn to dance.
During one competition when I was doubtful I’d ever get the hang of dancing, I was in the middle of a competition when I heard someone in the crowd yell, “Go Wayne”! I was scared to death but I heard that person cheer for me. Then when I was walking off the floor after competing, someone stopped me and said, “Dang Wayne, you danced really good!” I can’t tell you how encouraging that was. I’ll never forget hearing that. It helped me power through the frustration that I felt as new dancer trying to be better. Thank you, ‘Heavy D.’ !
I felt the same encouragement as an artist too, when I began to transition from photography into digital art. That was a whole new ball of wax. Technically, I am a very good photographer. I have been for years. I’ve studied how to work my cameras, set up flash systems, studied landscapes and people and became a very good photographer. But transitioning into art and using photography to make abstract creations and to portray concepts, well, that’s going well beyond what I knew how to do. I could envision it, but I had no idea how I was going to get there.
I ended up finding an art community that taught how to use the software and various techniques to produce artistic images, but actually doing it myself was a very frightening thing to do. I’d create something and then I was supposed to submit it for others to view it publicly. That was frightening as hell too! When I was finally brave enough to post some of my art for critique by our mentors and advanced artists, I could hardly bear to see what feedback I’d get. I felt so vulnerable, so exposed and so inadequate to be submitting what felt like elementary images to professional artists. But the strangest thing happened. They didn’t pick the piece apart. They didn’t critique it to death. Instead, they raved about how good it was. They clicked the ‘Like’ button on social media. Sure, I knew it didn’t compare to their level of art, but I realized that they too had been at my level at one time. They did the same thing that my other her0’s did – they gave me ‘an encouraging word’ . They saw potential in me. They lifted me up and in effect told me to keep going. They said that I was on the right path, that I would succeed! They helped me grow and power through the self doubts. And eventually, I reached a level of very satisfying proficiency with my art. Plus, it gave me the insight that it didn’t always matter if anybody else liked my art. I found that I liked it! The joy I felt inside of me as I made art satisfied my own soul – and that was pretty good all by itself. This was an incredible revelation for me. Thank you, Sebastian!
I set about to create this image shown here as a tribute to those who have had a lifetime impact on me. I thank them all.
An Encouraging Word gives power in our struggles and energizes our dreams.