In the space where I do most of my writing I have a sticky note with an encouraging word from a friend. She didn’t write it on the sticky note, I did. She told me something my heart needed to hear and I came home and wrote it down and keep it close to me as I write.
I look at these words of encouragement often – especially when I start to wonder if what I’m doing even matters or when I’m tempted to stray from writing in “my voice”.
I need words of encouragement. No one has ever encouraged me and received, “Stop it with that nonsense,” as my reply. Not ever.
And I’ve never met another person who didn’t like to be encouraged. Sure, some people may reluctantly receive a good word spoken over them, but they store up and savor those words in their hearts and replay them over and over. I know it.
If encouragement is so important, and we know it is something we can freely give to someone else, why do encouraging words seem so scarce?
I don’t think there’s any real mystery involved in how we can encourage others, but I think it’s worth examining why we don’t do more encouraging. Here are four barriers to being an encourager:
Being self-focused – Sometimes we are (I am) just too busy being busy or absorbed in our own lives to take the time to support others. It doesn’t take a grand amount of intelligence, skill or time to encourage, but it does take stepping out of my own little world to purposely build up someone else.
Having a critical spirit – This refers to an overall sense of negativity, spotlighting failure (in others more than in oneself), being judgmental and ready to disapprove. If negative words outweigh your positive words, work on changing that ratio. The change will not only benefit those around you, but you, as well. Frankly, there are endless battalions of critics and we don’t need any more. Enlist as an encourager, instead.
Believing the “scarcity of success” lie – Sometimes we just have the equation all wrong. We think that there is a finite amount of success to go around and if we endorse others there will be less success for ourselves. Sound ridiculous? The quote above makes so much sense because we are afraid there isn’t enough success, beauty, wealth – you name it – to go around and therefore we must be thrifty with our affirmation of others. This is a lie – throw open the cupboard of encouragement and feed others liberally with your uplifting words.
Laziness – I often have such wonderful thoughts about people and even think about sending a note or text of encouragement and then… I just don’t. What a wasted opportunity to give the words someone may so desperately need to hear. I have been convicted to move my good intentions into action.
The encouragers of this world are a vital. They are the conduit to all the good work that is being done. They are holding up and motivating the strong who sometimes feel weak. And they are coaxing the weak to put one foot in front of the other.
In his book, Jesus Outside the Lines, Scott Sauls suggests, “Affirm whenever and wherever you can. As the likeness of God, everyone is magnificent. As an incomplete work in progress, everyone is magnificently frail.”
Some people need to be encouraged to attempt great and mighty feats. Some people need to be encouraged to relax and breathe. Still others need to be encouraged to just take the next breath.
Who will you encourage today? Start with the people under your roof and work outward. Everyone you come into contact with provides an opportunity for you speak words of encouragement.
And who knows, maybe someone will store up and treasure your words on a prominently placed sticky note.
“But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead these people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” Deuteronomy 3:28
“Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall.” 2 Samuel 19:7
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word builds him up.” Proverbs 12:25
“Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.” Acts 15:32
“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11-12
“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of saints.” Philemon 7
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13