It is this tenet that I take into all of my writing. Leaving people challenged in simple or profound ways.
When speaking, these challenges are often laid out in a fun and encouraging format so that the people I am talking to are empowered to choose and enter in to a self-determined contract of sorts. So, for example at a recent assembly of year 7’s at the school where I am Chaplain I spoke about how important reading was and is for me, and how important it is for them. I was an average student in primary school, and with the simple encouragement from my Grandfather to read and to understand words (I went to the dictionary for every word I did not know) I jumped academically in a year to be dux of my school (year 7). Then this pattern continued through highschool and ultimately laid the platform for me being the first person in my family to go to University (and just recently I was awarded a Masters in Ministry). Hundreds of thousands of words. Thousands of sentences. Hundreds of topics, themes, characters, nuances, engagements, and practical applications. My Grandfather’s challenge to me to learn the words I didn’t know inspired me, and set me on a path that changed my life positively forever. Sharing that story with the year 7 cohort helped stir many students into taking up the challenge to read, and begin loving words that they may never had engaged with before.
In a world of political correctness, tolerance, pluralism and “mind-your-own-business-isms” challenging people is perhaps a forgotten art that has been vital to us as a species and is equally important for our individual development. I am glad some caring people challenged me to rise to the challenge of becoming better when I was younger, and I am thankful for friends and family that lovingly challenge me now to “keep going for it” when times are tough. I am inspired but my wife and writing friends who keep gently prodding me to keep writing even though the journey seems long and often arduous.
In our writing we have the opportunity (perhaps the responsibility) to challenge people. We challenge people not to judge them, but to empower them. The next time you have the chance to communicate to a particular audience, challenge yourself. Stop. Take a deep breathe. Ask, is there something I can inspire, challenge, equip, empower others to consider? Is this something I can learn or grow into? The next time you recognise that you can help someone by a little encouraging challenge, do it.
Humbly. Supportingly. Caringly.
Maybe the best way for us to be true through our writing is to do the journey with people we trust who can challenge us to be all we can be as writers. This challenge should be mutual, and its action overflowing to our readers to enthuse self-determined contracts that lead to positive transformation.