“We love those who know the worst of us and don’t turn their faces away” (Walker Percy).

NONE OF US CAN SAY THAT WE NEVER NEED TO BE SUPPORTED. Lacking some necessity, we need to be helped. In danger of falling, sinking, or slipping, we need to be propped up. On the verge of weakening — or even failing — we need to be strengthened.

Out of all the people whom we love, those who have supported us may well be the easiest to love, especially if we are conscious of the grace that was involved in their support. As Walker Percy wrote, “We love those who know the worst of us and don’t turn their faces away.” Those who fought for us when we were under attack and unable to defend ourselves are unique friends. And those who supported us in the face of strong opposition, running a risk to stand with us when no one else was doing so, have a special place in our hearts. There is really no love quite like that of a supportee for a supporter.

Support runs in both directions, of course. Sometimes we need to receive support, but at other times we need to give it. And giving support engenders a special love also. In fact, as Eric Hoffer suggests, “We probably have a greater love for those we support than those who support us.” This is partly why parents love their children so much.

We need to have the character to engage in support — both to receive it and give it. It’s obvious that giving support requires the virtue of generosity, but receiving support also requires a virtue: the willingness to humble ourselves. If we have the generosity to help others but are too proud to let ourselves be helped, then our character is not yet fully formed. We must learn to acknowledge our own neediness.

But as givers of support, one of life’s greatest mistakes is withholding our encouragement from people we dislike or disagree with. Yet if we never support anyone but our friends, we aren’t doing anything more than the average criminal would do. Would it not be better to rise above this limited kind of support and learn to be encouraging, strengthening, and helpful to all those who come within our circle of influence — whether they see “eye to eye” with us or not?

“The real . . . is always checkered with failure, imperfection, and even wrong. So instead of biting and devouring one another, let’s support individual freedom as we serve one another in love” (Charles R. Swindoll).

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

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