I was minding my own business in the cosmetics aisle at Target the other day when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Excuse me, but can you tell me which one of these looks red?”
I turned around to see a woman in her 50s, her face the very definition of angst. She was holding two lipstick tubes directly in front of me.
Now I admit I was feeling pretty confident I could ace this one, having mastered my ROYGBIV a long time ago, but when I looked at the lipstick, I found myself utterly befuddled. PEOPLE, they were almost the identical shade of fire-engine red.
“Um,” I faltered, wondering if this was a trick question. “They’re both lovely.”
The woman’s face instantly fell, and I realized there would be no elegant sidestepping of this question.
“Okay, what are you looking for?” I asked.
“I want it to be RED,” she said. “Not even a little bit orange or pink. RED.”
I looked at the two tubes again, desperately trying to decipher any nuances between the two. And then it hit me: this woman wasn’t looking to me for my color expertise or my fashion savvy. It was well into the afternoon, and any attention I’d paid to my lips before I left for work was long gone by now. I’d eaten something that required much napkin-swabbing for lunch, and I’d made a mad dash through a rainstorm on my way into the store, so I clearly didn’t have the cosmetic qualifications to answer this question.
What this woman needed was someone to feel confident on her behalf when she did not. (Which, come to think of it, was surprising for someone with such a bold shade of lipstick.)
I took a breath and dug in. I looked at the current shade she was wearing, and then I looked at the two tubes again. “This one,” I said with more certitude than I felt. “Definitely this one. It looks like the color you’re wearing now.”
She breathed an audible sigh of relief and headed directly to the check-out. I shook my head as she left, wishing I could be so confident when it came to my own decisions.
The thing is, sometimes we lose perspective when it comes to our own lives. We can’t tell if red is red. We need someone else to speak the truth boldly on our behalf.
Sometimes we shy away when someone asks for our input, not wanting to butt in to someone else’s business. But what if one word from you is exactly what that person needs to be able to move forward, to do the big thing they need to do? What if one word from you could inject in them the extra inch of courage they need?
Maybe they need to hear words like this from you:
Yes, try for the new job.
Yes, write the book.
Yes, go on the trip.
Yes, ask her out.
Yes, go back to school.
Yes, turn in your adoption application.
Yes, follow your dream.
And yes, get the red lipstick.
As I drove home, I wondered about the woman’s story. What had she needed RED lipstick for? Was she feeling any braver? Was she applying it in her rearview mirror this very moment?
I’m reminded of the words of that wise philosopher Christopher Robin, spoken to his friend Pooh:
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart . . . I’ll always be with you.”
Isn’t that one of the reasons we’re here? To be bold on behalf of our friends when they are feeling timid. To speak truth to them when they can’t see it. To be there for them when they can’t tell red from red.
Whatever hard decision you’re facing right now, allow me to be your Christopher Robin: You, my friend, are braver than you believe. You’ve got this.
Has someone ever spoken bold words to you when you were facing a tough decision? I’d love to hear your story!