Generally speaking, I’m a pretty confident guy. In high school I spent two summers doing door-to-door sales; and in my current professional life I never back down from defending my viewpoint—even if a superior is on the other end. I actually enjoy public speaking, while for most Americans it is their number-one fear, outpacing things like snakes, death by drowning, and needles.
Yet in one particular area of my life I fantastically lack confidence. It can be summed up in the category of handiness—building things, putting stuff together, the general act of being handy. Or in my case, whatever the opposite of that is. Having kids and moving three times in the past four years has put this area of my life on full display. (Thankfully, Yelp has a whole section on “handyman.” Those guys are lifesavers!).
That’s why a recent conversation with my oldest son, Lincoln, yielded the greatest false compliment I’ve ever received. We had just finished building the “greatest tower of blocks the world has ever known.” That’s when Lincoln, who turned 5 last August, looked at me, and with the sincerity only a child can possess said, “Dad, you’re the greatest builder ever.”
“Maybe you’re not the best; but to him you are.”
I was horrified, but I tried not to show it. “Thanks, buddy,” I said. “That’s really nice of you to say.”
Wait until he finds out that Legos are pretty much the extent of my skills, I thought.
A few hours later I shared the exchange with my wife, who is often on the receiving end of my lack of usefulness around the house. She said something powerful in response.
“Maybe you’re not the best; but to him you are. He sees the best possible version of you.”
I learned two great lessons from my son that day.
First, we have the ability to speak life to others. We meet people every day—in and out of our homes—who have insecurities we know nothing about. Our words aren’t magic, and they can’t instantly remove every inward doubt. But something we say might be the spark that challenges the negative narrator who does everything possible to exemplify weakness and control the story we tell ourselves. What Lincoln told me that day didn’t make me any better with a hammer, but it certainly made me want to keep trying.
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Prov. 16:24).
Second, how we see ourselves is not how God sees us. We see a mountain of insurmountable faults, mistakes, and inadequacies. God sees what we can be once we’ve made it to the top. Our role is to simply keep climbing, believing that our heavenly Father knows our potential even if we don’t. After all, He made us in His very own image and is the original “greatest builder” who can mold us into what we need to be.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
In 2020, I’m pledging to be a person who speaks life to others, and believes it when others speak life to me.
Even if—no, especially if—it comes from a 5-year-old.
Jimmy Phillips is network marketing director for Kettering Health Network.