We have been parents for 25 years. It is a journey we wanted to be purposeful and intentional in. We wanted to teach our kids more than just how to “get along,” “be kind,” or “share.” We wanted to have a strong family where we would “champion each other’s strengths.” To champion is more than just cheering each other on; it is more than just encouraging the good. It means recognizing weaknesses in ourselves and identifying the strengths in other family members. It is recognizing that another’s strength is what makes me stronger. It means recognizing that another’s weakness is an opportunity for me to bless them.
To champion another’s strength is a choice rather than a compulsion. It will require:
- a teachable spirit which is open to input from others
- acceptance that others are at varying degrees of maturity
It’s a willingness to recognize that others have strengths that I don’t have and then choosing to encourage them and push them in their strengths. What does it look like? When the kids were young, I could see the extra physical strength my eldest son had, even as young as 5 years old. In speaking to him, I told him that I was glad he was so strong and I championed his strength by telling him that someday he would be able to help me in my weakness – and he did. As he grew, he could throw 50 lb. bags of produce around for a couple of hours (a task we regularly perform). My younger son wasn’t built the same as his older brother and, due to the 5 years between them, for many years could not lift the same. Yet he heard our perspective and appreciated his brother’s strength. As he got older, he could eventually do the same task but there was never competition between them. Instead, he took up the call that together they could help the family. He is now the one lifting the 50 lb. bags we work with since our oldest is out of the home.
This whole concept of championing each other’s strengths came to our family years ago when Gary Ezzo mentioned in Growing Kids God’s Way that unkind words are often the most overlooked area of parenting. This was something that we took seriously. We didn’t want there to be sarcasm for humor, or teasing for laughs, nor did we want the kids to feel defeated in something we knew in time they could accomplish.
My daughter came to me one day in frustration over her handwriting: “I can’t do anything!” I knew better! “Anything” was not the issue, handwriting was. I asked her who was good at handwriting and she acknowledged quickly that her older sister liked it. I followed by asking her what her sister struggled with and she recognized it to be math. “What are you good at?” ”Math.” I then shared this thought – You can rejoice that your sister likes writing. She does a beautiful job with it and gets joy from it the same way you do working with numbers. In turn your sister can appreciate math because you enjoy it and not because it is fun for her. The result?
- Gone was the competition
- Gone was the incorrect feeling that she wasn’t “measuring up”
- Gone was any comparison
Instead, each sister could appreciate their sibling’s strengths that complimented their weaknesses. This is ultimately a benefit because now there is a special way to serve others. We need the other’s strengths because that is what makes us a strong body as the body of Christ. If, however, we only acknowledge that another person has different strengths but fail to show them that we find value in those strengths, we fail at championing because we are not recognizing the difference of strengths as something that is to be celebrated. To champion another is to give them the confidence that you are in their corner – they can succeed! You are saying, “Your success is not only dependent on you…I am walking with you.”
As our children have grown older, we continue to see this played out in our family. We see it when two of the teens drive together – one going with the other just so he doesn’t have to drive alone – she’s there to watch and talk. And we see it in our marriage relationship: my husband is a natural socializer, where I would rather quietly disappear by myself; He gives me the confidence to socialize. He is in my corner!
The confidence that comes when you are championing another is that he knows:
- He can strive for excellence without being able to do everything or feeling like he’s falling short.
- She can honor others because her honor is not at stake. You will protect it for her.
- He can show respect with joy because he knows that he will not be degraded or put down for areas where he is lacking.
- She can rest because she doesn’t have to compete with others; you will help her in the future.
The ripple effects of this go beyond just working together as a family. When individuals know that others will back them up in their strengths and their weaknesses, and the strengths of others are viewed as assets rather than threats, there is courage to run with what they know and fulfill the greater purposes to which God has called them. When there are people behind them, they have the greatest confidence to move ahead and trust that not only will God completely back them up and fight for them, but that He has also provided people in their lives to do that.
We need each other as members of a family. God has put us together specifically as a unit. We can find joy in each other’s successes and strength for our own weaknesses. When we are free to do as Hebrews 10:24-25 encourages – that is, to stir one another to love and good deeds…encouraging one another and building one another up, we have the joy of success built on the strengths of the team. We are able to fulfill a better picture of God’s design for us when we are able to look beyond ourselves and any preconceived competition and can show support and recognition for the person God created and the ways that they have been gifted for service to the family and the body of Christ at large.
When I champion another’s strength, I will recognize:
- I have a body I am a part of
- I have a way to serve
- I have greater strength due to the strength of another
- I have a perspective greater than my own personhood
- I can minimize fear of failure or comparison to others
- I can fulfill God’s commands of ‘otherness’
- I can build up and encourage
- I can give and receive God’s affirmation for a perfect design
- I will see the potential of the future
- I will speak life-giving words
Jody is a follower of Christ, a wife, mother of five and grandmother to a sweet (almost) one-year-old. She has been married to Michael for 28 years. They have lived in southern Texas for 18 years. Four of her five children have graduated from high school (homeschool) so she is exploring what her ‘new normal’ will include.