I won’t sugar coat the fact that life is hard. There’s no denying that. But too often we try to control our circumstances to avoid the “hard”— like if we eat right or get on a budget, then life will be rainbows and unicorns. By sheer willpower and effectiveness we try to push through our struggles with a fix-it-myself attitude. But curiously, that mentality has a way of isolating us, and before we know it, we end up alone, buried by our circumstances.
But rather than relying on efficient practices and willpower, life’s hard moments are best navigated in community. When the going gets tough, the tough find strength from those around them.
I remember when our kids were born, we dedicated them at our church. We invited our family and a few close friends to surround our children as we promised to help grow and mature them in years to come. As we laid our hands on our sweet kids, I saw a village. And it has taken that village to raise them well.
But why do we lose this perspective as adults?
Instead of surrounding ourselves with a village, we retreat until we find ourselves depressed and drowning. Whether it’s shame or pride that keeps us from reaching out, we’ve become masters of avoiding real community. But you nor I were meant to do life alone, and we don’t have to. All of us need a supporting cast whose inspiration, encouragement, and wisdom will help us grow.
If you want to get unstuck or if you’re looking for your village to help you grow, here are three types of people that you need in your life. Regardless of how much money you have or what season of life you’re in, you need to cultivate, develop, and nourish these relationships as a way to find peace in the midst of the “hard”.
In a faced-paced, socially isolated world, encouragement seems to be a dying quality. But encouragement is something we cannot live without. It’s gas in our proverbial tank and water to our thirsty soul. That’s why everyone needs a cheerleader.
Legendary coach, Jim Valvano said, “The greatest and most powerful gift I ever received was from my father. The gift my father gave me, every day of my life, was that he believed in me.” Our cheerleaders are the ones who believe in us—they’re the vocal backbone when we’re down and out.
We live in an incredibly connected society, but despite our connectedness, we’re starving for real encouragement. Facebook like’s, retweets, and Instagram hearts have become a cheap substitute for what we truly long for.
So how do we find our cheerleaders?
As I look back on my own life, my greatest cheerleaders are the ones I’ve cheered for. Belief abides by the principle of reciprocity—the more you give, the more it returns to you. Too often, we withhold our encouragement and our praise for others because we’re scared that if we let it go, it’ll never come back. That’s why the old, empty miser who sits on his pile of money is actually the poorest guy in town. Those who are truly rich in life have learned the power of generosity. Generosity always wins.
If you find yourself lacking in encouragement, chances are, you’ve failed to be an encouragement to others. To find your cheerleaders, become a cheerleader to someone, today.
Mentors are those who keep us humble. These are the people who are wiser and further down the path than we are. And it’s not necessarily about age—it’s about experience. Mentors have the capacity to speak truth into our lives because they bear the stripes earned by experience.
When looking for a mentor, think about the people you’d hope to emulate. And there are different mentors for different areas of life. You can have business mentors, spiritual mentors, parenting mentors, and so on. But there will be the rare few who live life with such wholeness that you’ll want to model them in ever respect. Surround yourself with them and become a sponge.
The counterpoint to this is that you need to regulate and limit your relationships that don’t help you mature. This isn’t to say that you quit people, but you certainly have to learn to control the amount of energy you give away to people that drain you. I call these people Vacuums because they have a way of sucking the life out of you. While Mentors build you up, Vacuums weigh you down. Learn the difference and be intentional about cultivating mentoring relationships and avoid the vacuum.
The last thing I’ll say on Mentors is that you have to be humble. Only humility can be taught. Cultivate a heart that’s willing to admit that it needs to grow, that it needs to mature, and you’ll attract exactly what you need.
When I was thinking about how to name this character, I struggled with a word powerful enough to describe them. All that came to mind was the word, staple.
Staple has a double meaning. On one hand, it’s a small piece of metal that binds things together. On the other hand, it’s something consistent, a pillar. Staples are the people in your life that hold everything together, they’re the glue. The Staples are there to listen when everything comes apart. And in listening, they provide the consistency and the compassion that bring us peace.
One of my Staples was my grandfather. But when I was nineteen, my grandfather committed suicide during an awful battle with lung cancer. That was one of the most difficult moments of my life, a moment when my foundation seemed to crumble. But that moment taught me that no matter how much we look up to and find our strength in people, they will fail us.
That’s why there must be One true Staple in our life. For me, that is Jesus. And not in a cheesy, cliche, religious way. Here’s a real man who gave His life to encouraging people, teaching them about the fullness their lives were created for. And for the two-thousand years that have followed, Jesus has been an unshakable rock that has withstood it all.
As I think about it, in Christ, all three personas are fulfilled. Jesus was a cheerleader who encouraged people deeply, He was a mentor whose wisdom transcended generations, and in His death, He became the staple that binds us to Himself in eternity. He’s our example and a beautiful picture of the hope that we can share with others. We still need to cultivate relationships in our physical life, but as believers in Christ, we have supreme confidence when those relationships fail us.
So where do you stand? Are you building and nurturing these relationships in your life?
If you want to grow beyond where you are and truly thrive, you must engage in real community. With Christ at the head, you need to surround yourself with Cheerleaders, Mentors, and Staples. In the end, that’s what the church should be about.
Learn more about our one-to-one mentoring and schedule a discovery call at www.youprint.life/mentoring