Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
February 8, 2009


Life would be impossible without balcony people


          A little 70-page paperback changed my life. The book is titled Balcony People, written by Joyce Landorf Heatherley and published in 1995.  

It was a gift from longtime friends Grady and Celestra Rowell who live today on Lake Jordan near Wetumpka.

          Heatherley’s book provided a breakthrough for me, giving me a new understanding of how to cope maturely with my relationships, the good and the bad. Some people drive me nuts. Others joyfully energize me. Heatherley showed me a brilliant way to relate to all the people who influence my life now or who have influenced me in the past.

          She begins with the assertion that there are only two types of people in the world – the evaluators and the affirmers. The negative comments of our evaluators bother us all. And we tend to pay more attention to the harmful remarks of evaluators than the positive words of our affirmers.

          However we have a choice about evaluators. We can choose to keep their judgmental opinions in the past even if the past is just yesterday! We can “replay” harmful remarks or we can bury them and move on.

          The key is to focus today, right now, on the affirmers who are encouraging us to reach our potential. Though our affirmers may be few, one can make all the difference for, as Heatherley says, “One affirmer is worth a thousand evaluators.” The affirmers help us to embrace the truth about ourselves so that we can overcome our past and become all that we can be.

          Heatherley (and other writers) help us enormously by calling the affirmers “balcony people” and the evaluators “basement people.” I love the picture those words create! The affirmers are in our balcony cheering us on; the evaluators are our basement screaming that we are going to fail.

          Life is not easy. Some nights are cold and lonely. We are pressured on all sides. We begin to doubt ourselves. But one balcony person can appear and we are suddenly able to walk on.

Balcony people are necessary because those negative basement people are always present. The terms are transparent. Balcony people are "up," and basement people are "down." The implication is clear. Balcony people pull us upward; basement people pull us downward.

         Basement people may be from our past or our present. They may be dead or alive. Their influence is always negative. They are the people who constantly offer criticism. What they call constructive criticism is actually destructive criticism that drags us down.

Memories of basement people reside in the murky water of our subconscious minds. Their words stay with us and haunt us. Here is an example. Your daddy (or your mother) spoke angrily when you were a child: "You’re so stupid you will never amount to anything!" As you grow older the memory of those words becomes a scream from the basement that robs you of self-confidence. 

Balcony people, on the other hand, exert a positive influence on your thinking.  They write you a note complimenting you on a job well done or offer words of praise that encourage you to believe in yourself.

The word "balcony" conveys the beautiful idea that these persons are above us, leaning over the balcony of life to cheer us on. Their characteristic phrase is "You can do it."  Without them few of us can ever do our best at anything.

The daily challenge is to pay little attention to your basement people and keep your focus on the cheerleaders in your balcony.  Tell the basement people that you do not intend to let them rain on your parade any longer.

          Give thanks for your balcony people. Listen to them and let their encouragement buoy your spirit. Think how blessed you are to have even a few balcony people pulling for you.

These days I feel so deeply blessed by the balcony people in my life that I can hardly hear what my basement people are saying. They may be screaming but I am not listening. I am too busy thanking God for my precious balcony people – and looking for ways to be a cheerleader in the balcony of those who need me. + + +