I was writing at another site recently and one of the titles that caught my eye was along the lines of: How can you tell if you were meant for greatness? That set me thinking. As you might know, that can lead to all kinds of off the wall oddage. However, on this occasion I don’t think that’s the case. I happen to have a personal little idea about greatness.
I think everyone has moments of greatness in their lives. They might not ever even know they had it, but those moments can change the course of someone’s life for the better. I’ve thought about this off and on for years and years. It was an offhand comment that was made about me that started it all off.
When I was fourteen years old I was with a bunch of other people at my cousin’s house. We were listening to the radio and singing along with all the songs. One of the kids there with us was a boy who liked me. I liked him too. We hadn’t done or said anything about it yet, it was all shy looks at this point. Being about the same age as I was, and shy, and stoopid as boys that age are, he was trying to think of something to say and he decided to go with teasing me. So while I was singing along with my cousin he said something about me thinking I could sing.
My throat immediately seized up and I couldn’t make another sound to save my life. It would be ten years before I could sing in front of anyone again. That one tiny little teasing comment changed me. I allowed it to take away a major piece of my life for ten years. It wasn’t meant to harm me, it wasn’t meant to cause me pain or discomfort. He was only trying to get my attention.
However, eventually, I began to think about how much power that one tiny little comment had. I knew that things like that had happened to other people over and over everyday, all over the world. The spoken word is an immensely powerful tool. Used properly, it can lead one to instances of greatness.
Accidental moments of greatness occur all of the time. When someone says something nice or encouraging about someone else and it is passed on or overheard, that is an instance of greatness. That one comment can change a life. It can lead someone who might have given up, to begin all over again.
But true greatness can come if this power is guided and used intentionally. An overheard comment that isn’t said directly to someone had incredible potency. This is probably because we feel that there is more honesty in something said about is to someone else than there is in something said about us to us. So, an “accidentally” overheard praise about someone is doubled in force.
I try to let my kids “accidentally overhear” me praising their good qualities as much as possible. I like to say all of the good things I can about them when I know they are eavesdropping. It’s good for them to hear good things being said about them outside of their presence. Because they are so much more likely to believe it that way. Besides, my kids are wonderful, and they will never believe me if I tell them that to their faces. I’m never really sure why!
I brag on My Dearest Husband all of the time. Mostly I do this because he’s absolutely hands down the coolest human being ever, but also because it’s good for him to overhear me saying good things about him too. Because it’s human nature to be more likely to believe things not meant to be heard than it is to believe things said to your face. That way he knows that I love him from what I say TO him and also from what I say ABOUT him to other people.
I try to point out the good qualities I notice in my kids friends and acquaintances as well, because I know that kids tell everything. Therefore anything I say about their friends will be repeated to them verbatim. I tell them how one of their friends seems to be meant for the diplomatic corps because they seem to be able to get everyone to get along. Or another seems to be the favorite of every animal that is within shouting distance, so they might be a vet one day. It gives them something to think about, something to see in their future, something about themselves that is more than just a kid. It gives them a glimpse of themselves as adults for just one brief moment. As successful, respected adults. It gives them something to shoot for.
I think people who help someone out of the goodness of their hearts with no expectation of return for their effort are an example of greatness. I think people who can make you laugh when you feel like crap are an example of greatness. I think people you can talk to when you need a place to dump all of your negativity are an example of greatness. I think people who give you a shoulder to cry on are an example of greatness. I think people who can spend time with you and make you feel comfortable with silence are an example of greatness.
An offhand remark has enormous power to affect the lives of the people who hear them. If you make the proper offhand remark at the proper time you just might be an example of greatness yourself. You probably already have, whether you know it or not! How cool is that?