In the mid nineteen-seventies I published a book titled How to Be a People Helper. It was translated into several languages and the English edition is still in print. Over the years I’ve shifted my interest away from counseling and more to what I call people building. This term includes counseling but the emphasis is broader.
People helpers, like professional counselors and therapists, focus on reaching out and helping others deal with personal and relational problems, many of which can be intense and sometimes devastating. People builders are focused more on individuals and groups that are concerned less about problems and more about growing. Coaches help others deal with life difficulties and challenges but there is more of an emphasis on goal setting and building on strengths. Educators, pastors, writers, trainers and leaders of all kinds emphasize problem solving but their focus is more on engaging, encouraging, guiding and equipping others to live more productive and fulfilling lives. People builders often are concerned about poverty, social justice, and team building. They include mentors, athletic coaches, sensitive parents, and others involved in the process of changing attitudes, improving skills and guiding others to make wise decisions, reach their goals and fulfill their potential.
Chapters 12 and 13 in the New Testament book of Hebrews give some characteristics of people-builders, especially those who are Christians. Effective people-builders are:
- Models of the behavior, attitudes and morals that they seek to instill in others,
- Free of bitterness and destructive criticism,
- Willing to offer discipline and corrections that help others grow,
- Persistent, not becoming weary so that they give up,
- Committed to doing good and sharing with those in need,
- Clear in their beliefs and values. For Christians this means keeping a focus on Jesus and being open to following his leading in our lives.
This is an impressive list, maybe impossible to put consistently into daily practice. Some among us work to build success, acquire riches, fame, and influence, none of which is innately bad. But what could be better than leaving a reputation as a people-builder?
In what ways are you a people builder? What should I have added to what I wrote? Please comment.