In Let’s All Be Brave, Annie F. Downs writes: “‘Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’ (Proverbs 16:24). And to say gracious words is brave. To speak life into someone else takes courage. Whether you are correcting in love, standing up for the voiceless, praying for the sick, or praising and loving others, your words are changing the atmosphere.”
Wednesday evening, Colleen (my amazing roommate) and I spent time getting to know our host brother whom we hadn’t seen much of thus far. Later that night, Colleen asked our host brother what his favorite thing is about himself. This prompted an hour of deep conversation between Colleen, me, and our host brother and sister, discussing the things we have noticed and appreciated about each other since we were first introduced. When our host mom arrived home, she joined in on the fun. We shared our observations, speaking life into one another, and as Annie F. Downs states, it was brave.
At first glance, it may be surprising that complimenting someone requires any bravery at all. But it is brave not because of how the other person may respond, but because praising someone’s characteristics or talents acknowledges, perhaps, our own weaknesses. And yet, as Downs asserts throughout Let’s All Be Brave, bravery isn’t about us or about overcoming the exploitation of our own weaknesses. Being brave is about glorifying God by loving each other courageously.
As our group grows increasingly tired, our words and thoughts become less gracious. It is easier to sulk, complain, or criticize when our minds and hearts grow weak. God reminded me so graciously on Wednesday night that it is in those times particularly that we need to speak love to each other ever so tenderly, building each other up verbally and by our actions. Complimenting my host family, whom I have just begun to know, built connection between us, like ivy growing up a building or moss on a tree. The connection is intricate because the bonding element is love.
These thoughts were only confirmed as we headed into the Atlantic Rainforest yesterday. Professor Waverli spoke to us of admiring diversity and being grateful: two things that we all needed to hear at this point in our trip. As we stood by the water’s edge looking around us at the forest, all we saw was green. But Professor Waverli said, “If you look really closely, you can see that every tree is different.” She was right. As we looked closer, we saw the details and the diversity of this place that had at first just appeared green.
As a class, we are just like that forest. We are all a part of the Honors Program, all studying at Roberts Wesleyan College, many of us come from a Christian background, and yet there is diversity to be admired as well. Even as we walked through the forest, different students would stop to look at different things: bugs, plants, sloth-scouting (Dr. Starr, Nathan, and myself), mica, etc. Details and diversity. As human individuals, we notice some aspects of God’s creation more than others, and the same is true about other humans’ characteristics and talents. What I noticed in one of my host siblings, Colleen may not have considered, and vice versa. Complimenting one another was like our experience in the rain forest: paying particular interest to that which is big or small, dull or shiny, colorful or plain, loud or quiet, simply because God called our attention to that organism or that characteristic.
Professor Waverli encouraged us to see the diversity around us and to be grateful for it. However, “Wow! Look at this!” isn’t just meant for giant spiders and unique trees. It is also meant for each other. We were made to love all that God has created, and sometimes we need to bravely verbalize our admiration for each other to build a connection and habitat for growth. Because, as Annie F. Downs states, “your words are changing the atmosphere.”