Encourager or Audience?

Are you an encourager or an audience?
How do you decide when to be an encourager or an audience?

“Some of the kids might get a little freaked out about riding along the side of a cliff,” I told Pedro as we discussed where to take students on Sunday’s mountain bike ride.

“They should do ok—they can walk if they get scared. It’s such a beautiful ride.” I nodded in agreement. But we had forgotten about the difficult and technical parts of the trail—after all, we hadn’t ridden it for two years.

The memories of the rough spots and steep uphill in the first two miles may have faded, but I started to worry about the less skilled riders as the we approached yet another rocky uphill stretch within the first mile of the ride.

Everyone seemed to have a great attitude, though. The more skilled riders waited at the top of a steep, switchback-filled incline and cheered as each successive rider made it to the top—whether they ended up pushing their bike or ‘cleaning it’ (making it successfully up the hill without putting their foot down).

When I cleaned the hill, Pedro led the ten students in cheer for me, too. I blushed. We started out again, and as I waited for the long line to spread out a bit, I enjoyed the towering red cliffs, the deep blue sky, the sounds of birds trilling and the lavender, yellow and white flowers that dotted the hillside. A perfect day in a beautiful place with an enthusiastic group of kids—a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.Beautiful Sedona, AZ

And then we came to the part of the trail that follows a wide spot along the long, concave curve of a towering cliff. The trail split as it approached the cliff and someone has posted a sign that said, “Difficult” with an arrow pointing to the right, and “Extreme,” with an arrow pointing to the left. Neither way was dangerous—just unnerving to someone on a bicycle.

Did I mention that several of the kids had never ridden on a mountain biking trail before? The sign did nothing for their budding confidence. A few of the students followed Pedro down the extreme path—they had gone with him on other trails over the past two years, and they knew their (and Pedro’s) limits and skills.

Most of the students chose the difficult trail—but there’s something about the wording of the two choices that seemed to suck the good sense out of some of them. One little girl in particular got grumpier by the minute. I started calling out encouragement to her, but I could hear her mumbling to herself as she pushed her bicycle along the path, “I wish I had never come bike riding. This is horrible. I hate this.”

I confess that I got a little irritated—especially as she fell further and further behind and started acting like a helpless victim—as if the trail and her presence on it were somehow MY fault. When we made it around the corner of the cliff, I assured her that that was the worst of the trail, and the easiest way back to the car was to continue around the loop. I struggled to discern if I was acting as an encourager or audience–did she need encouragement or was I wan unwitting audience to the drama she produced?

She grumbled. She mumbled. She flung her bike against the side of the hill when she had to get off once again to negotiate a rocky patch. The temperature climbed and the sun beat down and bounced off the beautiful red walls. I could feel my unprotected arms and legs slowly turning the same color as the rocks.

I stewed. I reined in my impatience. I prayed for her. I smiled at her and when I could stand it no longer, I opened my mouth. “You have two choices,” I said in a matter-of-fact tone. “You can have a bad attitude and a horrible time. Or you can have a good attitude and have a good time. The choice is yours. You choose your attitude and decide what kind of a day you’ll have. Other kids have to get off and walk. It’s ok.”

Eventually, she stood up again and jerked her bike into position and started to ride. She rode off down the trail, mumbling and grumbling. I let her get a good ways ahead of me—hoping that without an audience, my little drama queen would find it more difficult to act.

At one point, Pedro rode back to see if I wanted to switch places with him. I thanked him, and like a martyr, urged him to return to the front and enjoy himself.

Occasionally I could see her make it over a tough spot and I’d praise her efforts. She caught up to the rest of the group where they had stopped to fix a flat tire and I left her in the shade and joined a group of boys who had congregated at the bottom of a difficult hill.

We spent twenty minutes cheering each other on and seeing who could reach the highest point on the trail. By the time Pedro had fixed the flat, I had expended my pent-up frustration on tackling the hill (I made it three-fourths of the way up—not bad for an old lady). I felt refreshed and ready to take up my position as cheerleader and encourager of grumpy children once again.

Pedro had taken a few moments during the flat-fixing stop to encourage my drama queen, and his wise words seemed to do the trick. Although she had to walk her bike up a couple of steep spots, my little drama queen had chosen to have a better attitude.

At the next fork in the road, we decided to head back to the vehicles because some of the students had run out of water. The wide trail and easy surface made the last two miles a breeze. By the time everyone refilled their water bottles, many begged to ride that section of the trail again—even my drama queen.

I waited with the one student who didn’t want to ride longer, and everyone else happily rode back up the hill so that they could zoom down again. As I waited, I reflected on how I often I pray for patience during my morning time with God.

How quickly I forget that if I ask for #patience, God gives me opportunities to exercise it. Click To Tweet I don’t do well with whiners and complainers. I don’t know when I should shout encouraging words and when I should open my mouth and tell them to choose a better attitude.

I do know that there’s a fine balance between encouraging and acting as an audience. The only way to discern that balance is through prayer, so I pray for guidance, and hope I do no lasting harm.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #InspireMeMonday. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

Take a moment to visit the other hostesses, too! Angie, Cindy, and Denise.


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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Anita, I had to smile as I read this post. I am not sure if I would not have been the drama queen myself that day 🙂 But it is so true, we have a choice to make each & every day as to the attitude we will face the day with. So grateful you & Pedro made a difference in this little girl’s life that day. The photo is just stunning!
    Joanne Viola recently posted…He Knows EntirelyMy Profile

    • I can’t imagine you being a drama queen, Joanne! It’s easy to get stunning photos in Sedona ;).

  • So true. That’s a tough one. Hopefully the girl learned from that experience. It sounds like a great time and the view looks amazing!
    Messy Mom recently posted…Spring on the Summer PlansMy Profile

    • The ride was gorgeous–I wish I could have taken photos of the flowers–but I was distracted by keeping all the kiddos safe ;). I’m still working on that fine line between photography (and all the pauses and stops it requires) and mountain biking with others.

  • Oh my, you are correct Anita! It is so hard to know whether to continue adding encouragement or draw the line and say enough! I do believe patience is key, and discernment even more than patience.
    Thank you for your encouragement today!
    Blessings of GREAT JOY as you ride fun and difficult trails on your journey with Jesus!!
    Lisa Brittain recently posted…FMF::BreakMy Profile

    • Thank you for stopping by, Lisa–and for your encouraging words!

  • You did have a drama queen there for sure! Sounds like between you and Pedro, she turned her attitude around; and it’s all in the attitude we have that makes life events harder or easier!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Barbara recently posted…LOVE HAS NO COLORMy Profile

    • At the end of the ride, she wanted to go again :).

  • Tara

    We do have a choice don’t we? I tend to be an encourager. But I’ve had a few times when I’ve had to encourage kids like your drama queen but I just keep encouraging.

    • Encouragement is a spiritual gift, right? 😉

  • I went mountain biking in sedona in the last year and after a few miles I started to whine and complain. It was too technical for me and I just wanted to be done, but the trail ending seemed like it was no where close and then we made a wrong turn which didn’t help. I should have readjusted my attitude. Thanks for the humbling message.
    Amanda recently posted…The Journey Begins: AfghanistanMy Profile

    • ;). I’ve been on those kind of bike rides, too. It was definitely all about my attitude.

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  • Your words are fascinating, Anita … ‘a fine balance between encouraging and acting as an audience.’

    I’ve never thought of that before and it leaves me wondering if we can do both at the same time.

    mmm …

    Linda@Creekside recently posted…Dear Linda : : How Do I Help My Depressed Sister?My Profile

    • Good question, Linda. The older I get the more I find myself praying for discernment to know the difference!

  • I was just commenting on another blog and thinking about our (my) tendency to wallow in misery. It never helps anything!

    I like your post, and I agree that it’s hard to know what to do when we encounter another person in that position. When I’m on the whiny misery end of the deal, what I need will vary, too. Sometimes I need compassion, and sometimes I need encouragement. What never works, though, is “Get over it!”
    Melissa recently posted…A Year of Living Prayerfully (Book Review)My Profile