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Practical Tips to be Your Friends' Biggest Cheerleader (+ how that's a reflection of Christ)



Since I’m injured and in a wheelchair (check out this post for an update if you haven't already!), I get to be my team’s cheerleader every single day during practice, and it is genuinely my favorite thing in the entire world. The other day, I sat in the grass cheering on my teammates for about an hour and a half, and I had so much fun. As I left practice that day, I felt so full and proud of my teammates. I got to watch some of my favorite people do one of my favorite things, and hopefully encourage them along the way, and it was such a blessing.


But what I’m learning is that being a cheerleader for my people doesn’t stop after practice ends.


We are called to be a blessing, support, and encouragement to our people, purposefully and thoughtfully. We are called to cheer our people on and draw them closer to Christ each and every day.


Too often, we forget how important this is. We’ve grown to become jealous and bitter when we aren’t the very best, and we’re always trying to figure out what will help us the most or make us the happiest. Our focus is more on ourselves than the people around us, and we wonder why our friendships lack depth and vulnerability.


It is time for us to make a shift in our friendships and begin having the same mindset of Christ (Philippians 2:5), and that means selflessly serving and cheering on our people.


And before you tell me that no one is serving and cheering you on, so you can’t do that for others, let me tell you that you can, but you have to do it with Jesus. Trying to serve your community out of your own strength will always, always, always lead to you feeling drained and discouraged (trust me, I've tried), but when we lean on Jesus for strength and wisdom, He empowers us to cheer on our people and love on them in a way that glorifies Him. I know it's easy to get discouraged, but that discouragement is only fuel to draw closer to the Lord and stand firm on His truth.


So, how do we do this? How do we truly cheer on our people?


Celebrate every little success.

Part of being a cheerleader for your community means paying attention to the things that deserve celebrating. At practice, this may look like powering really well up a hill or getting super close to the times they're supposed to hit, or even an impressive amount of effort. These probably aren't the things that the coaches are going to compliment them on, and it won't earn them a reward, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't matter. I'm working on noticing those little things and congratulating my people, because each and every one of them deserves to be celebrated each and every day.


Outside of practice, there are still so many things to celebrate, like:

  • a good grade on a test

  • getting a new outfit/hairstyle and wearing it confidently

  • maturing as a person (refraining from gossip, forgiving someone who hurt them, going out of their way to reach out to someone who was lonely, etc)

  • improvement in their sport

  • learning how to be a light in their family

  • reducing screen time/deleting social media

  • creating better eating habits

  • going to church

  • consistently reading the Bible

  • opening up about something vulnerable

  • and much, much more!

I'm telling you guys, we have a million opportunities everyday to celebrate our friends and family if we just open our eyes to them! It doesn't have to be complicated - just notice it, point it out to them, and let them know how proud you are of them. When we are intentional about that, our people feel seen and special, and not only are we loving them like Jesus calls us to, we're also investing in our friendships, and that is so important.


Stick around when things get hard.

If I left practice every time one of my teammates didn't run their fastest, couldn't finish every single run, or didn't do the maximum amount of reps, not only would I be leaving practice quite a bit, I'd be an awful friend, and I'd be missing out on an incredible opportunity to love on them. If we're going to be a godly support for our friends, then we have to be committed to cheering on our people even when it's not convenient or pretty.


This means that we have to get a little bit uncomfortable, but it also means that we're opening up, getting vulnerable, and strengthening those friendships. This means that we don't shrink away when our people are having a bad day or an attitude, but instead choose to stay available and supportive in any way they need us. This means that we stay close when our friends face conflict at home or with other loved ones, and show them a constant love that reflects Christ. This means that we show grace upon grace to our people, even when they aren't at their "peak", because we want the same thing in return when we aren't at our best.

And when we do this, we are creating space for the Lord to cultivate a closeness within our community, for Him to spread His love throughout our lives like wildfire. We grow closer to our people, and we are transformed as we continue to learn to love like Jesus.


Go out of your way to encourage them.

As a culture (and I've fallen into this myself), we've become so focused on our own selves, our own schedules, whatever we currently have on our mind that we often struggle stepping outside of that, shaking it up, and going out of our way to cheer on, encourage, or inspire our friends. It requires us to put forth a little extra energy, time, resources outside of whatever we're already pouring into, but it is worth it.


When we step outside of the routine, of what's comfortable and convenient, for the good of one of our friends or our community, we have an opportunity to make them feel so special and noticed. It's a beautiful way of showing love, to go above and beyond what they may be expecting to show them that you care about them. I truly believe that this is the kind of love God is calling us to display, because it glorifies Him, blesses our people, and strengthens those friendships.


Maybe this week you can try one of these things to go out of your way to encourage your people:

  • Pick up their favorite candy, treat, or drink and bring it to them at school or drop it off at their house.

  • Write them a sweet note and leave it on their car windshield.

  • Text them to share a Bible verse that encouraged you or to tell them about something that made you think of them.

  • Ask if you can swing by their house or pick them up to talk about a difficult thing they're going through.

  • Bake them cookies with a note attached! (food is one of my love languages, can you tell?!)

  • Help them out with a chore they have been putting off (getting a car wash, cleaning their room, ect)

It might take a little extra effort, but friends, I promise that it will be worth it! And don't forget - if you're starting to get burnt out, lean into Jesus and seek Him for strength. He will carry you and empower you to glorify Him and serve others, but you can't do it by yourself.


Challenge them.

If we want real, genuine friendships, then we're going to have to push each other. True friends challenge each other to improve and grow to become the best versions of themselves and draw closer to the Lord. Again, this isn't comfortable or convenient, and probably not a part of your regular conversation, but if we want to continue to learn how to be a godly friend, it's important that we pray about and practice what it looks like to cheer on our friends and push them to grow.


We have to be very purposeful when we do this, though, and be especially intentional about being gentle. We should only speak out of love - never judgement, hatred, or jealousy, and only when the Lord has given us peace about when and how to bring it up. Here are a few kind ways to challenge and push your friends:

  • If they're struggling to stay consistent in their Bible study, invite them to do one with you, and text them daily to remind them.

  • If they're doubting the Lord, remind them of the truth found in Scripture and how He's come through before.

  • If they're falling into a sin (unholy language, gossip, lying, etc), share about a story where you struggled with that sin and how the Lord helped you overcome it. Have a conversation with them about how you can support them in overcoming that, and be willing to pray with them.

  • At practice, I often say, "Stay mentally tough!", "You can do more than you think you can!", "This is tough, but you're tougher!" as a way to encourage them to keep going, even though it's hard.

The truth is, a lot of time this looks like joining them in their battle. Being that person to fight alongside them and push through the challenge together is a beautiful reflection of the kind of love that the Lord shows us. It deepens our friendships and encourages our people - and man, what a blessing that is.

 

I am LOVING cheering on my people, both during practice and after practice is over. This is something that the Lord is teaching me a lot, and I'm so grateful for these lessons.


How do you cheer on your people? How has that transformed your friendships and community? Let me know down in the comments below!

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