Encouraging Words

Yesterday I got the sweetest message rather out of the blue from a very dear friend who used to be my boss. Basically, the message was about him being proud of me for going after what I want in my career and being willing to take risks and not waiting for it to be handed to me. We ended up having a really sweet, supportive conversation and it was a great moment.

I really want to be an encouraging person. We all know people who drain our batteries and people who charge our batteries. I’d love to be a person who is a battery charger, not a battery drainer but I’m not sure I’m there yet. I’ve got both types of folks in my world and I’ve found it helpful to categorize the type of relationships I have with people to help me prepare for interacting with them. A couple of caveats:

1. I’m categorizing my interactions with them, not them. Rather than avoid people who drain me, I just need to be prepared to be drained before I interact with them. That means being self-aware and then taking care to make sure I fill the tank in a healthy way.

2. People aren’t eternally stuck in a category. They can move all over the place. A lot of these changes depend much more on my growth than theirs. People become much more tolerable as I grow up, I’ve noticed.

3. This is primarily applicable to someone in a ministry context or helping profession. Yes, I still a little bit use it in my personal relationships, but this is something I came up when I was doing full-time ministry and had to figure out pretty quickly who were the “safe” people and who would suck the life out of me.

Ok, here it is.

Relationships

It’s a little blurry. Sorry about that. I am sad to say that I don’t have better names for the different circles. Let me define them and then maybe better names will come out of that:

1. Deep Friendship – I’m speaking here of a very reciprocal relationship. There is openness, honesty and trust. Support is alternatly given and received without reservation.

2. Counseling Friendship – This is someone you have coffee or lunch with, you can talk to about mid-level stuff, and you might do some counseling in there a bit. Sometimes they’re supportive but there’s a bit of an imbalance.

3. Acquaintance – You don’t know them well, but they may come to you with some needs. This is sort of the “figuring out where they go” phase.

3. Ministry – You may or may not know them well, but basically the relationship is all you giving and they are not in a place to reciprocate.

If you know me personally, please don’t spend any energy trying to figure out which circle you’re in. As I said, I don’t use this nearly as much as when I was in full-time ministry. I found I tend to move people into the friendship circles too quickly and then I would end up getting really drained. Then I would get frustrated with them and with myself for misjudging the situation. Putting them in the right circle is the most gracious and loving thing I can do because then it sets up realistic expectations.

I may get some crap for this, but it really has worked for me. If anyone out there has better thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

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