Last week I wrote an article for Crosswalk.com called “10 People Your Child Needs in Their Life Other Than You”. But then I got to thinking: kids aren’t the only ones who need certain types of people in their lives–we do, too!
Just as a child cannot grow into the fullness of who she was created to be on her own, neither can we.
Who are the people we need in our lives, exactly? Here are four types of people you absolutely, positively need in your life to be all God created you to be:
- An Encourager
Years ago, when JP pastored a small struggling church, one of the members would regularly tell him, “Be encouraged!”. Of course his intention was to encourage, but his words, devoid of any reason why JP should be encouraged, always left JP more discouraged than if he’d said nothing at all. To be a true encourager–the kind of person who genuinely enhances your life–two things must be play.
First, a genuine encourager believes in you. They may value your character, your abilities, your work ethic, your wisdom, your talent, or a hundred other things that make you, you. But their belief in you will reflect the real you, not just a generic version of you. A genuine encourager is not the family member that says, “Oh honey, I think you can do anything!” An encourager is someone who’s taken the time to observe you enough to know your actual strengths.
Second, an encourager not only knows your strengths, an encourager verbalizes your strengths.
Plenty us have folks in our life who notice things we do well. Noticing isn’t enough. One word of spoken encouragement is worth a thousand positive thoughts left unsaid.[bctt tweet=”One encouraging word is worth more than 1000 positive thoughts.” username=””]
But what if you don’t have an encourager in your life?
First, seek to be an encourager. You’ll find more joy than you can imagine when you begin to look for ways to encourage others. Second, resist the tendency to diminish encouragement with comments (or thoughts!) like “anyone could do this”, “it’s no big deal” or “they don’t really mean it”.
Far too many women deflect encouragement rather than accept encouragement. Don’t be one of them. When you receive affirmation, accept it as a good gift from God, and soak it in!
Finally, make sure you are connected (not just attending!) a healthy church filled with loving, life-giving people. Trust me on this, if you’re connected to loving people, you’ll find the encouragement you long for. And need.
2. A Challenger
Just like kids need people to push them beyond their comfort zones, so do adults. Childhood has a way of providing built-in challengers (the tough coach, the hard-grading teacher, the disciplined music instructor), but adults can potentially avoid them. We don’t like our demanding boss? Quit. We don’t like the pastor’s convicting sermon? Change churches. We don’t like the fitness instructor who actually makes us sweat? Walk out of class and head to Starbucks for a caramel macchiato, extra whip.
See what I mean?
But here’s the thing: if we avoid everyone who challenges us, we never grow.
We may not like challengers, but we need them.
Can I tell you a little secret? Some of my biggest personal growth has been a direct result of interacting with someone who said, or did, something that made me uncomfortable (sometimes even mad!) because they pushed me beyond my comfort zone, spiritually, relationally, physically, or professionally. I haven’t always liked it. But I have always needed it.
And so do you.
We all need challengers in our life if we want to do, and be, all God wants us to do and be.
3. A Helper
Two weeks ago, I returned from a week long trip to Haiti, and I got sicker than I’ve ever been. This would have been a problem in itself, but I was scheduled to speak at a three day women’s conference. It was not a pretty picture.
But you know what happened? My daughter, Ashton, packed my suitcase the day before my trip (Bless her!!) Then, the morning of my conference, she volunteered to drive me so I could rest in the back seat. At first I resisted, because like lots of women I’m more comfortable being the one who helps, rather than the one who needs help. I assured her I could handle it on my own.
“No, mom. You can’t. Let me do this. I don’t mind, and I want to help.”
I could have cried.
She was right. I needed–needed–help. Help isn’t something I like to ask for, and it’s not something I like to accept, but the fact remains, each of needs someone in our life who will roll up her sleeves and help us in ways we can’t help ourselves.
We can’t do everything by ourselves. We were’t meant to.
And here’s the deal: If I had resisted her help I would have missed her blessing.
Take it from me: If need you help, don’t pretend you don’t. You’ll be blessed, and the person who helps you will, too!
4. An Acceptor
An acceptor is someone who knows us and loves us just as we are. You don’t have to be perfect with an acceptor. An acceptor allows you to let down your hair and be real.
This doesn’t mean an acceptor lowers the bar for how we live. On the contrary, an acceptor motives us to raise it, because in the presence of an acceptor we find grace. In his book, Everybody, Always, Bob Goff writes, “People don’t bloom where they are planted. People bloom where they are loved”. Is that good, or what?
Acceptors love us. Love changes us.
Every one of us needs encouragers, challengers, helpers and acceptors. But what if you don’t have these types of people in your life? What then?
We can’t exactly ask someone to encourage us, challenge us, help us, or accept us–or can we?
Consider what the apostle Paul wrote:
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.(1 Thes 5:14)
- Warn those who are lazy – challenge
- Encourage those who are timid – encourage
- Take tender care of those who are weak – help
- Be patient with everyone – accept
Who says we can’t ask for a little encouragement? Who says we can’t put ourselves under the tutelage of someone who will challenge us? Who told us we should never ask for help, or accept it when it’s offered? The body of Christ is meant to be a safe place to find encouragers, challengers, helpers and acceptors. And we, as its members, are to be proactive in being these types of people for others.
This is how we grow. This is how we become mature. This is how we press on.
Right now, pause and ask:
- Who encourages me? Who can I encourage today?
- Who challenges me? Is there anyone I can challenge with love?
- Who helps me? Who can I help today?
- Who accepts me? Who needs to know I love and accept them?
PS. This could be a great conversation starter with your family, your small group, or your spouse!