The Power of Believing in Others

When Olympic champions are interviewed they almost always bring up the names of people who have helped them achieve their Olympic dream. Usually parents and coaches are at the top of the list. These people, they’ll frequently state in the interviews, believed in them. Imagine the emotions of the Olympiads’ parents and coaches listening to these interviews! Steve Farber, a motivational coach, writes, “None of us gets very far without someone who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves.”

All of us want our lives to count for something. We’d like to make a difference in this world, at least our little corner of it. It would be great if just a handful of people felt we meant a lot to them and were a significant part of their lives. The fact is, we ARE in a position to add value to the lives of those within our sphere of influence. A major way this happens is to believe in them!

In 1968 a study was done by psychologist Robert Rosenthal and school principal Lenore Jacobson. They gave teachers in Jacobson’s school a select list of students who, they were told, had done well on a previous intelligence test. What the teachers didn’t know was that the names had been selected at random and no such test had been given. Later on in the school year all the students were tested. Those on the select list that was given to the teachers did better, though they had been chosen at random. The teachers’ expectations of these students resulted in them actually doing better! Rosenthal also noted how the “feedback factor” played a role in the results of the study. When teachers believed in a student they gave more praise and positive feedback.

The idea that high expectations of someone often leads to improved performance is called the Pygmalion effect. The Pygmalion effect is named after the Greek mythological character Pygmalion. Pygmalion was a sculptor who created such a beautiful statue of a woman that he fell in love with it and his love caused the statue to come to life. People come to life when we believe in them!

I know, we all want others to believe in us too. But maybe, just maybe, we should forget about ourselves a little more and put more of a focus on believing in others. Believing in someone is one of the best ways to be a blessing to them, and we’re likely to find that the blessing boomerangs right back to us!

This is a tough, broken, harsh world. Everybody’s been beaten down. We don’t have to look very hard or far to find them, they’re our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and church family. What they need more than anything is for someone to believe in them. That someone can be you and me!

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (The Apostle Paul writing to Christians in 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

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