Next week, I will be speaking to a group of women on the topic of mentoring. In today’s post, I’m sharing parts of that talk. As you read it, I hope you will remember the people who’ve affirmed you—your mother or father, a teacher, a coach, a co-worker, a friend?—and let them know how grateful you are.
What do people, today, need more than anything else? An affirming, relational connection. How can we meet that need? By becoming a “balcony person.” I’m borrowing the term “a balcony person” from Joyce Landorf Heatherly, the writer of Balcony People; however, the definition and description that I’m sharing is primarily my own.
What is a balcony person?
In short: a balcony person is someone who values us, believes in us, and encourages us to come to a higher place; it might be a higher place physically, emotionally, spiritually, economically, relationally, or mentally.
In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the writer tells us that a cloud of witnesses is viewing us from the “balcony” of heaven. These are the people whose words and lives have inspired us; we may or may not know them personally, but memories of them remain in our minds and hearts. We still feel encouraged and supported by them. In addition to great grandparents, grandparents, and parents, I have three friends in that “balcony”—the three women who mentored me as I wrote my recent book.
A balcony person supports us, listens without judgment, encourages us when we become downhearted, gives us wise counsel when we desire it, and offers a hand to raise us up when we’ve fallen. A balcony person is an affirmer.
In her book, Joyce says that there are two types of people—evaluators and affirmers. Evaluators judge us and put us down, attempt to fix us, and leave us feeling defeated and inferior. Affirmers value us and raise us up. When we are with an evaluator, we feel that we being judged; consequently, we become anxious and perform worse than we normally do.
Evaluators are very serious. Often, they are perfectionists; therefore, they cannot put up with our dysfunction—or theirs. Affirmers can laugh with us at our dysfunction. They do not take life so seriously. They are not perfectionists. Evaluators use the word “should”. I should have…you should have… This produces guilt. Affirmers us the word “could. “ This inspires hope.
Katya Greer, a fantastic artist and awesome high school teacher, was an affirmer. (Two days after she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, tragically—she died.) In talking about how Katya mentored her, one student said, that Mrs. Greer always preceded an evaluation with an affirmation. For example, she might say, “That picture is amazing! (Pause) It could be even better if . . .”
Like Katya, a balcony person sees us as we are now; yet, beyond that, she recognizes the more that we could be and calls us to become all that we are created to become. When a balcony woman values just because we exist, instead of how we perform, she inspires us to improve our performance.
A balcony person offers unconditional acceptance. Neither extra pounds, gray-hair, disability, age, position, unmatched clothing, an out-of-date hair style, nor, even, lack of cleanliness turn her off. She sees beyond these exterior things. She tries to see with the eyes of God.
The world sees only outward beauty.
God sees quality beneath.
The world rejects the ones who stumble.
God restores his fallen sheep.
The world discards the old and feeble.
God upholds those small and meek.
The world’s applause is for a moment.
God’s honor is for eternity.