The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nothing frees like discovering yourself safe in relationship.
For most of my life, I’ve been terrified of public speaking. In highschool, I put off the required course as long as possible, signing up only when I knew my graduation depended on it. My twice-a-year piano recitals from age 7 to 17 caused my hands to tremble, my performances showing no evidence of weeks of diligent practice. When called upon to sing a solo in the youth choir, I tried to be brave, grabbing the mic and pushing through my fear. But any kind of spotlight prompted physical proof of my internal terror: hives, trembling and nausea.
My root fear? Failure. I didn’t want others to see how incapable I believed myself to be.
As I aged, I grew weary of this battle. I didn’t want fear to rule my life, to decide what I could and couldn’t do, to limit what was possible. And so in 2006, on the recommendation of a friend, I attended a speaking conference. Perhaps the most risky step I’d taken, and one that would end up changing the course of my life.
I’m now on staff with the organization I once participated in as a student. Since that first day, I’ve learned how to prepare focused and clear presentations, which certainly tempered my fear to some degree. But the greatest gift I’ve received isn’t the presentation tools. In fact, what I received is an intangibility I never expected:
From May 7, 2006 until today (yes, exactly 6 years), I’ve learned what it feels like to be so-very-safe in relationship that I can risk looking the fool. I’m surrounded by a team of professionals who inspire me with their talent and expertise. Even better, their constant friendship, gentle critique, and unwavering belief have helped me get out of my own way.
One friend told me on Thursday, “Michele, if only you could see what the rest of us see.” I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to see myself objectively, without the shades of self-doubt clouding my perspective. You might feel the same way. But perhaps the greater gift isn’t developing unadulterated confidence. But, instead, pushing through fear to lean into the reassurance found in relationship.
Another word for that? Abundant, cushioning grace.
As you and I cheer on those we love most, our greatest gift isn’t our advice or corrections. It isn’t time spent together or the warmth of our company. Our greatest offering is grace, eyes that see beyond the mistakes and mess-ups, a generous safety that not only allows for growth and potential, but buoys it, propels it, gently nudges it forward with confident belief.
Who needs to hear you say, “I believe in you?”