Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“I’ve Got Your Back” - Shepherd

            A phrase I do not remember hearing frequently, has surpized me in the last three days, at least twice, in totally unrelated contexts.  It strikes me as powerful words of encouragement.  The phrase is “I’ve got your back.” 
            Although I am unaware of the origin of the phrase and could not find a definitive explanation on line, one possible meaning suggested on Yahoo Answers received 50 percent of the votes.  It was the idea that when soldiers are on patrol, the only way that they can be sure to have a 360 degree view of what is going on, is by standing back to back.  Whatever is behind one is in front of the other.  It mentioned that time honoured comment that we do not have eyes in the back of our heads. 
            At a wedding I attended, the best man was praising the qualities of the groom.  He said, “I knew Matt always had my back.”  By that, I understood he was saying, “Here was a friend who I could count on to protect me by watching out for my vulnerabilities.”  I thought that to have a friend like that is a priceless treasure.
            The phrase cropped up again at a long-term care facility, where I am a chaplain.  A worker was helping a frail woman transfer from her wheelchair to a recliner.  “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ve got your back.”  By her chuckle, I knew that the pun was intended.  Yes, she was supporting the elderly woman’s back physically, but she was also there to help and protect the woman and make her feel safe. 
            As my intrigue with this phrase led me to other places on the Internet, I discovered that some folks in Brooklyn, New York have been trying to get a campaign going to address street harassment.  “I’ve got your back," is the code expression they have chosen to try to motivate bystanders to become involved.  When bystanders perceive someone being threatened by a harasser, they are encouraged to ask the person if they need help and assure them that they have got their back.
            “I’ve got your back,” is a term that suggests solidarity.  It is a way of saying, “You can count on me.  I will be there for you.”  What music those words are to the ears of someone who is alone, afraid, and perhaps confused.  Whatever they are facing, they know there is someone who will not take advantage of their weaknesses, and more than that, will be there to step in and offer them strength and courage.  
            If you tell me that you have my back, I know that I can confront whatever is before me, since I will not be ambushed from behind.  You are looking out for me.  What a sense of empowerment those words provide.  They make it possible for me to believe that what I could not do alone, I now can do, because you are there to share the task and ensure that my deficiencies do not cause me to fail. 
            As an encourager, I am going to include this phrase in my bag of tools to help others as I try to practice it.  If they know that I have their back, they will be able to reach new heights and do what they thought was impossible.      
           As a writer, encouraging writers, when I have your back, I can help you express your unique voice without fear and discover how it blends with the voices of other writers to uplift and encourage our readers.  I believe that as The Word Guild this is what we are doing with Hot Apple Cider and A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider.  We have got each other’s backs.
Winner of The Word Guild
Christian Leadership Award 2011


Peter Black said...

Thank you for shining practical light on this phrase. As I read, my thoughts went to Isaiah 58:8-9 where he encourages his people to provide justice for the needy:

"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I...(Isa. 58:8-9a NIV)."
Looks like the Lord has the back of those who have the back of others in His name.

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks, Peter for these thoughts. They certainly add to what I wrote. I am most grateful for your input.

Peter Black said...

It just dawned on me Eleanor, as I read your response above, that the bear cub and cougar story (featured in a video) I retold in yesterday's post (below) makes a related point to yours in regard to the "I've got your back" aspect! :)

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Isn't that neat!

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