I write to model or provide encouragement, to point people to God as the unending source of strength, or to help develop our skills and gifts as we live out our faith and seek to love God and people.
God commands us to encourage one another. Please consider with me of the major reasons I think we need it now — perhaps now more than ever.
A Negativity-Focused Culture
In our day, an average person faces a myriad of challenges and obstacles that can tear down and destroy a person’s drive and effectiveness. Consider the following as examples.
1. Education System
Picture this. A kid spells 18 out of 20 words correctly on a spelling test. The paper is returned with no recognition at all of the 18 correct items but with big red circles around the two incorrect items. I understand the need to highlight areas needing attention but the focus is shifted to the negative.
That same kid comes home with a report card showing 3 A’s, 1 B and 1 D. The average parent’s knee-jerk reaction is “We need to work on that D.” I’ve even caught myself doing it! For a time, it was part of my job description.
A number of years ago, I was an instructor in a broadcasting school/production house. We would give opportunities for the beginning broadcaster to learn and develop some skills and to produce programs that would be recorded to be aired later. We were very clearly told that in every session we were to identify something that the person needed to work on. Even if the person had made great progress, we still had to find and point out something for them to develop.
2. News Media
Our news media often draws our attention—even obsessively—to the negative. This is especially true for local news outlets. Eight million people lived ordinary days yesterday, one person went off the deep end, had an accident or suffered a tragedy and now we have wall to wall coverage of every detail of that person’s life. Growing up, we had the local newspapers and the evening news programs. Today, depending on your TV service provider, we have at least six national networks broadcasting 24-hours a day 365 days a year in the United States alone—not to mention financial, business and sports news networks.
One form of this urges people to “shore up your weaknesses.” An employee has an annual review. An area of weakness is identified. Obviously, if it is a core or mission-critical competency, it must be addressed. But often it is merely a continuation of the process that started when you brought home your first honest report card. The tendency is to send the employee to some conference or seminar so they can work on a random weak area. Sometimes this works. Other times the employee gets a little bit better in their weak area while losing some ground in their stronger area. The result can be mediocrity –just average in all areas.
The well-rounded person sounds like a good goal. But our society rewards those who are notoriously non-well-rounded. Think of Michael Jordan playing basketball. Now, think of Michael playing baseball (sorry Michael). If you missed his baseball career just rent the movie, Space Jam.
In John Maxwell’s book, Talent is Not Enough, he writes,
“People simply will not pay for average. They never have, they never will…Being average has never helped anyone rise above the crowd. Average is average. But why are we so much in love with average? Think about it for a moment. After you come home from a hard day’s work, you don’t look at your significant other and say, “Honey, we’ve worked hard today so let’s treat ourselves and go out to an average restaurant.
And when the average waiter comes, you don’t say, “We don’t want to know what your specialties are. No, we don’t want to know what you’re good at. What’s average here? Do you have anything back in the kitchen nobody has ordered?”
The heart of the matter that John points out is that sometimes we need to allow ourselves to be adequate at something so we can excel at something else.
My point is that if we are not careful, we can get sucked into a culture that will drag us down and short-circuit the life that God has called us to live and enjoy. In part 2, we’ll consider how marketers and politicians can use fear to sell their ideas and products.
Have you seen this at work in your own life? Any examples you can add. Please share in the comments section below.
Note: This post is a revised version of a post that appeared in 2013.