One spring before I began tutoring high school students in our local Classical Conversations homeschool program, I sat in on another tutor’s class to observe for a day. Latin, British literature, art and music history, logic, biology — the discussions fascinated me as I imagined someday guiding my own students in their study of these subjects.
But the most memorable lesson came during debate when the tutor challenged the class — and subsequently, me — to think about what it means to be winsome. I’m sure I sneaked a peek at the dictionary app on my phone as I analyzed this word that was unfamiliar to me at the time and which the tutor had stressed when she mentioned being “above winning” as the primary objective of the debate.
Dictionary.com defines winsome as sweetly or innocently charming; winning; engaging. I’ve never forgotten the lesson shared by the other tutor or the power of this word over the past eleven years as I’ve guided classes of tenth graders.
Often, my students don’t know whether they’ll need to argue to defend the affirmative or negative side of an issue until the day of the debate. It forces them to be fully prepared, to research until they understand both sides of the issue, and to be able to defend either one. This is a skill which serves them well not only in debate, but also in life.
Although they may not agree with the position they’re ultimately asked to support, they know it inside out, both pros and cons. It’s their job to come to class prepared to affirm or reject either side. Can you imagine how that level of understanding could benefit us day-to-day with people whose opinions differ from our own?
The desire to win serves us well if our only concern is a judge’s score-sheet, tally marks on a page, or getting the last word. But the desire to be winsome serves us well if we want to win others to our point of view. Winsomeness is key when telling others about Jesus or when we’re trying to be gracious in a tension-filled conversation.
I once heard a man speak at a high school graduation ceremony. He commanded the attention of the crowd and the respect of many simply by the dignity of his presence. But when he opened his mouth, his words were tinged with anger and disdain for people who disagreed with him. Even though his words rang true, his tone repelled the audience. He was the opposite of winsome.
To be winsome is to be persuasive, and a winsome witness for Jesus Christ will always speak the truth in love. We are imperfect people in an imperfect world living imperfect lives. We won’t influence others by our perfect example — it isn’t possible — but by the love we show them.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
John 13:35 (KJV)
Even in the darkest times, as Christians, we carry hope within us because the source of our joy is secure. We touch other people’s lives when we live ours joyously, as winsome ambassadors of Christ’s love.
How can we be more winsome at work or school? Be more optimistic than pessimistic and include those that others leave out.
How can we be more winsome at home? Work to maintain a pleasant atmosphere. If you have children, discipline in love, play and laugh with them.
How can we be more winsome in our friendships? Be an encourager and a supporter — someone who delights in the success of others.
Let your life reflect the love of God by the way you love others.
Do you know someone who is especially winsome? What happens when truth is delivered without love?
Leave a Comment
Ruth Mills says
I love this! I always thought winsome people were the ones with more wit or artistic abilities than me. But it is Jesus in me that makes me winsome. Jesus in me makes me an encourager, transparent & loving in my less than wit or talent sets.
Dawn Camp says
Oh, Ruth—I love this: “it is Jesus in me that makes me winsome”! Yes, it’s not part of your skill-set in those other areas, but it is a trait we can practice and develop.
It Is not a matter of if we are representing the gospel, but of how we are doing it. Loved how you showed this truth in this article Dawn. We need to be winsome
Dawn Camp says
Yes, Flor, how we present our words can be just as important as the words themselves and may determine whether or not our listener actually “hears” us.
connie ker says
I used to attend a long weekend retreat called “Winsome Women”. Ladies would come distances away to our community to worship, socialize, learn and discuss. Jill Brisco was the keynote speaker one of the years I attended and I will always remember that time in my life. This lost year has been a difficult for all ages, and my lady friend who called me on the telephone to see how I was doing, passed away in January. I have not felt winsome losing my caring friend, but I should take a cue from her, and reach out more now that I am vaccinated.
Dawn Camp says
Connie, I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, but I’m thankful for the example she set for you. Yes, reach out winsomely to others who need it!
Beth Williams says
Sweet sister so sorry for the loss of a beloved friend. She taught you the value of being winsome & caring for others. You can honor her memory by reaching out to others like she did for you. Just call, text or visit people & spend a few minutes listening to them. That’s being the hands & feet of Jesus.
I love this soo much! I shared some of your quotes on Facebook.. thank you Dawn Camp!! Beautifully said!
Dawn Camp says
Thank you so much, Tamara! Blessings to you!
Dawn, this is so timely for me! Thank you for sharing these words with us. And for this word “winsome”. This will be my goal: to be more winsome in my interactions with others. Especially with my husband.
Dawn Camp says
Irene, I needed your reminder to practice winsomeness with my husband more than anyone. Sometimes the people closest to us get the least amount of winsomeness from us. Thank you for your comment!
Thankyou Dawn for sharing your wonderful words with us today, beautifully said.
Blessings to all,
Thank you Dawn for your beautiful message so needed today in our society. When I gave my life to Jesus years ago, one of the gifts God gave to me was an encourager like Barnabas in the New testament. I strive to use my gift to honor God, and to leave a legacy of love to my family and to others. God bless you.
Beth Williams says
Jesus modeled winsome perfectly. He loved ALL people regardless of who they were or how they acted. This world needs more of that kind of love & kindness now. We would do well to check on friends & family. Shower this world with some of God’s love. Go ahead & cook for someone, call, text or visit friends or family. The simple act of just being available for them-listening to their ails or praises is worth more to them than gold. Let’s shower this world with some winsomeness.
I never thought of my mother in these terms but in looking back she was the epitome of being winsome. I grew up in a small town in a rural community in Colorado. This particular area was farming and country life dominant and the denizens predominantly Anglo with the Hispanic people that lived there as the work force for the farming community. My father was a blacksmith and a white man while my mother was Hispanic and a stay at home mother. I told you all of that to tell you that she was a true enigma. She had a third grade education but was smart and creative. Growing up I didn’t know I was different from my classmates, until someone told me I was a half breed. I had to go home and ask my parents what that meant. To make a long story short my mother became a much respected and loved member of the community by being winsome. The Bible says if we want friends we must first show ourselves to be friendly. This knowledge has helped me all my life to the fact that our expectations of others cannot be more than our willingness to fulfill those expectations ourselves. Thank you for this writing. It serves to remind us that personal accountability is truly the only way to live successfully. We cannot survive by only blaming others for the problems in our lives even if it’s true. Ultimately we will stand before God and answer for our life’s choices and blaming others will not pass muster with Him
Michelle Stiffler says
Wonderful word, Dawn! Love this image and I’m certain it will continue to inspire me over the years, too. Thanks for sharing!