Upon his election to the presidency in 1860, Abraham Lincoln prepared to move from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, D.C. The night before he boarded the train, he sat in his law office with his partner of more than fifteen years, William Herndon. They swapped stories as they reminisced of past cases and clients, tough and eccentric judges, and courthouse gossip.
As the evening drew to a close, Herndon expressed doubt whether he was good enough to keep their practice open on his own while Lincoln ran the country. Lincoln leaned back in his chair at his desk and clasped his hands behind his head. He bluntly asked Herndon, a known alcoholic, how many times he’d been drunk over the years. Herndon, taken aback by Lincoln’s bluntness, answered the number was more than he could count.
At this point, Lincoln confessed that many people in Springfield, both in and outside of the legal community, had encouraged him many times over the years to drop Herndon as his partner on account of his drunkenness.
When Herndon asked him why he hadn’t dropped him and found another partner, Lincoln stood up. He threw on his coat, grabbed his box of personal effects and walked to the door. As he placed his hand on the latch, he turned to Herndon and said, “Because I never stopped believing in you.”
With those words of Lincoln’s unwavering support, Herndon gave up alcohol and proved a successful attorney in Lincoln’s absence.
Words matter. They’re powerful and can make a profound difference with people, whether we know it or not. Even the simplest forms of encouragement can do wonders. When was the last time you personally told someone you believed in them?