“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This has long been a practice of my mother. “He has such potential. We just need to treat him as if he already is the man we want him to become. He will grow into it.”
She is so much better at it than I. I can walk into a shack and see it as it could be. I mentally put wallpaper or fresh paint, fill it with beautiful furniture and varnish the hardwood floors. I can open my fridge and cabinets and look at an oddball group of ingredients and create a dish in my head. But she — she can see the lowliest of people, start treating them as if they were a king and before you know it they grow in stature and become the people she believed and told them they could be. She did it with me.
Imagine a world where we treated one another with such unbiased respect and unconditional belief that we were able to elevate one another to be the best that we can be.
I remember one amazing transformation where a man who was barely able to read was given an assignment that required him to not only read, but to perform public speaking and a lot of leadership skills. Someone gave him this assignment knowing where he was, but also knowing where he could be and he rose to the occasion. The transformation was nothing less than miraculous. He was told that God inspired the assignment, and he took it very seriously. He became one of the most eloquent speakers and leaders I’ve known and he prospered in other areas of his life, providing a better life for his family.
How can this be done?
Let go of prejudice
We have to relieve ourselves of the limitations we put on others. We have to eradicate from our minds belief phrases like, “She’s only” or “He’s always” or “They never.” In their place, we need to stretch our imagination and visualize them doing or being something great. We need to think, “Just because she never did that before doesn’t mean that she can’t. It just means that she’s never tried because nobody believed she could.”
Forget the past
Wherever they may have failed before, whatever mistakes they may have made or the horrible way they have treated you, all of these are irrelevant when it comes to today. The past is another country.
Remember what and where you have come from
Each of us developed into who we are because someone believed in us. It could be our parents, mentors, teachers, friends or God. Somewhere along the way, someone believed in us and it helped us to believe in ourselves. If we take a moment to look back on where we started and apply that same sort of belief in others, the results can be amazing.
Use encouraging vocabulary
When you speak to them, be encouraging and use phrases like, “If anyone can, you can.” and “I believe you are going to do this.”
Treat them as if they have already made the transformation
Don’t talk down or treat them as anything other than the person you know they can be. Begin immediately. Regardless of their past track record or failures treat them as the successful person you see them becoming.
Pray for them
Invoke God’s blessings and power on their lives by praying on their behalf. God also knows what each of us is capable of and wants us to work together to uplift and promote each other’s talents. Prayer will not only petition God’s blessings on the person, but will keep us mindful of our role in their growth.
Help them through setbacks
There will be moments of “What am I doing? Am I crazy for trying this?” Don’t let them get in the way. Talk about them and then dismiss them. Carry on with your encouragement and prayers.
Encourage them to pay it forward
Once they have arrived at their goal, encourage them to seek others and follow this pattern with them.
In a sense, we are all like angels and have the sacred errand of helping those around us. Seeing them as better than they are and helping them on their journey of self-improvement is one of the noblest things we can do. Others have done it for us, perhaps without us even knowing. And now we need to spread the love around.