This past weekend my older daughter and I ran in the Charity Chase Half Marathon in Hickory NC. It was our 3rd time and we enjoy the challenge. Being in the mountains of North Carolina, the course has many hills and is challenging.
A refreshing part of the event is that "cheer groups" are set up along the course to keep you motivated and offer words of encouragement. Some groups may be a few families in the neighborhood, while others may be made up of leaders of a local charity that will be receiving some of the money from the event.
One particular cheer group was not very motivating, however. We were only 3-4 miles into the race and one of the individuals said, "You're doing great-it's all down here from here!" Needless to say... it wasn't. And although the comments were well intended, they were more discouraging than encouraging. It's probably why one runner behind us, when hearing the person's words, shouted to them jokingly, "You're lying!!!"
Too often we offer the same type of support or feedback to coworkers, family members and friends. We may mean well, but what we really do is give them a false sense of hope or direction that may do more harm than good-espeically when they look back on the experience later. What they really need is honest answers and to know that we are there to support them when things get difficult. As I recently listened to a friend tell of their struggle to regain a sense of normalcy in their life, they kept saying it was hopeless to try. My response simply was, "It's not hopeless-but it will be hard."
There was another cheer group in our race that I'll always remember. We were just past the 12 mile mark and really in pain (the race is 13.1 miles). As we ran by, someone shouted, "There's only one more hill and then it's a flat run to the finish line. You are so close-don't give up now." They were right-and their honesty was greatly appreciated.