Treat A Man as if He Were What He Could Be


Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I’m not certain that I fully agree with the first part of von Goethe’s quote. You may not always make him worse, but you certainly do not help him improve when you treat a man as he appears. On the other hand, when you treat a man as if he were what he could be you do help him move toward his potential.

Any man or woman who hears enough times, “You are not good enough,” and he or she will begin believing it. Moving forward seems to be impossible. “After all everyone else knows it, it must be true.” Rare is the person who pulls out of this mentality without the input of a positive influencer.

Negative influencers abound. You have the potential to be a positive influencer for the people in your life. Whether you are a boss, parent, sibling, or friend, why not encourage people to reach for their potential.

I’m not advocating that you tell everyone to reach for his/her pie in the sky dreams. But you can help those you know to reach beyond a dead-end or flat-lined life. Everyone has a next step toward improved skills, a better life. You can be the one, perhaps the only, positive influencer in other’s lives.

Leaders should have the resourcefulness to encourage and influence all people in their charge (impact) to always be reaching for the next step of self-improvement. This could be furthering education, improving physical ability, mental capacity, personal competency or any number of personal advancements. Not only resourcefulness, every leader, pastor, and manager should have the ambition to assist others in striving for a more self-improved tomorrow. It should be our responsibility and our aspiration every day.

When we treat those in our charge as who he (she) could be, we help move him (or her) toward the person God intended. Don’t hold others back. Determine in your heart to be a positive influencer. Be the person who sees greater potential in others and inspires them to move in that direction.

Looking back in your life, I guarantee someone was that positive influencer speaking into your life. Can you name him/her. Likely, you’ve had more than one. What will be your aspiration tomorrow for moving others toward a better future?

“…treat a man as if he were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.”

George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at

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