As parents, we can give a similar message to multiple kids, and it encourages them in different directions. We have to be careful, not only in our blanket approaches but also the comparisons we make with other parents and the advice we seek and follow.
For example, I have friends who went home from school and told their parents about someone who didn’t listen or include them or responded in a way they didn’t like. Parents said something like, “She’s not worth your time,” “Don’t waste your time on people like that,” “You’re better than her.” In a couple cases, that advice fostered arrogance or an entitlement mentality. But those same words might be essential for someone else to hear in order to foster a strength that eventually spurs them to leave an unhealthy environment.
The same applies to many other situations. Similar words encourage one person in healthy ways and another person in unhealthy ways. But it’s not because all the applied advice is relative. It doesn’t mean we can give any encouragement we want because there are no absolute values, ethics, and character traits that need to be taught. We want to believe that, because it justifies what we want to do. Even when we’ve thoughtfully considered the best approach, there is room for change and growth.
We must take time to get to know people. Then we must be constantly willing to see changes in them. We need to listen to what they say and what they don’t. We need to see beyond a limited context. We need to consider the broader picture of where someone has been and where it seems they are going, in addition to specific personality strengths and weaknesses.
We need to set aside our own feelings of entitlement that we are always right. We don’t need to get so defensive about our ways. True confidence is humble. We don’t encourage others in order to prove ourselves right. We encourage and teach others in order to love God and love others well. Our confidence is in fostering a relationship, trust, respect, and faith.
It’s that simple.