How many times have you heard the sentence “it was the straw that broke the camel’s back?” We use these words when someone has reached an emotional breaking point. Usually some relatively little thing pushes a person under duress to the brink. They snap, blow up, break down. It’s left to others to pick up the wreckage.
Such a moment may be called a tipping point. Someone holds up against relentless pressure and circumstances until some minor thing causes them to collapse. A straw.
A tipping point is an event in a defining moment that changes things in a big way. In a life. Sometimes in an entire culture. The end of the Roman gladiatorial games in the Colosseum as a result of Telemachus’s protest comes to mind. Or the public 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City in which her neighborhood witnesses did nothing to intervene and protect her. This tragedy highlighted a culture of indifference and non-involvement.
I’d like to suggest that there are also such tipping points that result from continual encouragement.
There is always room in our world for another voice saying things like “you’re the man”; “you are beautiful”; “you have what it takes”; “you can do this.” It often takes repeated positive affirmations to reach a tipping point in a life. The point at which the recipient of the encouragement begins to believe it and act.
There are many broken homes in our land. Families fractured and alienated. Usually, the most potent fallout from a disintegrated family lands on the children. This is not to say that fathers and mothers who’ve divorced one another do not encourage their kids. Far from it. But the absence of one of the parents and an intact family certainly has a devastating effect.
Young men need to be told they have what it takes to compete and win in the marketplace and in life. Young women need to know they are protected, valuable and beautiful.
Continually encouraging human beings, especially the young, will no doubt cause such marvelous tipping points. The point at which a person begins to see within themselves what God and others have known all along. But it takes positive affirmation, repeated over time, to crest that watershed.
I challenge you to make it your goal to bring as many people, through your words, to a making point (as opposed to a breaking point). Use your tongue as the creative instrument God intended it to be. And watch as the light dawns in someone’s eyes as they realize that they are valuable, loved and eternally matter.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Malcolm Gladwell)