Encouragement--
The Helium of Life

Bernie Siegel

  

What is the thing that can make your life feel like a balloon ride?  What brings you the sensation of floating free, silently carried by the wind?  What lifts your spirits and allows you to overcome difficulties?  The answer is very simple:  Encouragement.

That's right, encouragement.  Not success.  Knowing that our efforts are appreciated is more important than being successful.  Encouragement removes the burdens we carry and allows us to go on with confidence.  Hemingway is supposed to have said that confidence is the memory of past success, and I agree that success can beget success.  But think about very young children:  They don't have any past successes.  If we need success to be successful, then how did any of us ever learn to walk?  What made you get up again, each time you fell?

You got up and tried again because your parents held out their hands and encouraged you to try.  "You can make it," they said.  Walk.  Use a spoon.  Ride a bike.  Think of the things you learned because your parents encouraged you.  Watch a child learn to crawl, walk and play ball again after surgery for a brain tumor, and you'll see how important encouragement is.

The key element in encouragement is to stop being judgmental.  

The important thing isn't the grade your son got; it's the effort he put out.  It isn't whether your daughter hit a home run; it's that she went up to the plate and took a swing.  The effort is what matters, because as long as we are trying we are fulfilling our mission.  "Examine me, O Lord, and try me," the Psalmist wrote. . . .

Our children are better than they think.  What kind of mirror do we hold up to them?  Do we point out all their faults and problems, or do we point out their beauty and successes?  What do you say to your kids when they walk out the door?  Stand up straight?  Fix your pants?  Did you forget your lunch or your books?  Do you ever say, "You're a beautiful person. God and I are proud of you."

A friend tells me he tries to encourage his children, but his fourteen-year-old daughter doesn't believe him when he tells her how wonderful she is.  Two-year-olds don't doubt you when you hold out your hands and tell them they can walk, but it can be trickier encouraging older children or spouses or adult friends.  Giving encouragement, like other forms of loving, sometimes requires creativity. . . .

Here is a prescription for encouraging the people you love:  Say good things about them to their faces and behind their backs.  And don't worry about exaggerating.  An overdose of love has no recorded adverse side effects.
   
   

This book is a continuation of the work I began when I became Bernie. It is a collection of stories about how to deal with life's difficulties. Most of the people in these stories have not had the great wake-up call; that is, they are mot facing life-threatening illnesses. So in a sense, this book is preventive medicine. It is a prescription for living that gives you effective and healthy ways of dealing with the adversity that occurs in everyone's life.

  
    

So often we think that to be encouragers we have to produce great words
of wisdom when, in fact, a few simple syllables of sympathy and an arm
around the shoulder can often provide much needed comfort.

Florence Littauer

  


  
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