1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “Encourage one another and build one another up.”
Proverbs 29:5 – “A man who flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his feet.”
Contrary to popular belief, encouragement is not flattery. Instead, it might be defined as speaking God’s truth about a person to that person. All too often, it’s a truth that they do not yet believe about themselves. Such encouragement is often met with resistance because there are internal lies are deeply rooted in a person’s psyche. They would rather have a word of correction than a word of affirmation because they have become so accustomed to the sound of their inner critic’s voice, it is hard for them to hear the voice of truth and reason.
Encouragement and exhortation are two of my strongest spiritual gifts. It’s taken me many years to learn how to use those gifts effectively, and sometimes, I still can make a mess of things. However, I thought I’d share with you some tips I’ve learned along the way. I do so in the hope that you can avoid some of the mistakes I made in the past.
Proverbs 12:25 -“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
Browbeating a person with random inspirational sayings is not encouragement. Platitudes will not stick to a wounded heart. If you find an inspirational saying or Bible verse that you think might help another person, take the time to tell them just why you think this saying would apply to them. Be specific. Don’t pull out the old standards of Memes, Bible Verses and quotes unless you KNOW those truths will be a blessing to the person you wish to encourage, in the place they are at and in the situation they face. Resist throwing the old standby, “Count it all joy,” at every person going through a rough time. If you don’t resist, you might find something thrown right back at you!
Be consistent in encouragement and resist hyperboles and generalities. If it sounds disingenuous in your head, your words will scream ‘pity’ to them the moment the words leave your lips.
Make it a habit of looking for the good in other people, even those people whom you find difficult. If you train your eyes to see the gold, eventually you’ll stop seeing the dirt in others.
Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Congratulating someone for their accomplishments is a good thing! But go one step further, take the opportunity to point out the specific character traits that they utilised to reach that accomplishment.
When something doesn’t quite work out the way someone had hoped, encouragement can turn the negative around to the positive. Again, point out the positive character traits that person displayed. Remind them of skills they learned through the process. “You really worked hard on your résumé, and it showed!” “I know your goal was to run a 5k race, but you made it past the three-kilometer mark, that’s two kilometres more than you were able to do 3 months ago!” “I admire the way you walked out of that dating relationship honourably when you realised he wasn’t the sort of man you could see yourself living with for the rest of your life.”
And one last thought. Encouragement does not involve pointing out the flaws in others to bolster someone’s confidence. “That guy was a jerk anyhow.” “Your boss never appreciated you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11b -“Encourage one another and build one another up.” Flattery will never build a strong foundation, but encouragement will.
Go through the Book of Acts and do a study on Barnabas, the ultimate encourager and one who definitely did not flatter!
Encouragement is not always gentle, squishy, and sweet. Study 2 Samuel 19:1-9. Joab’s words of exhortation to the grieving King David were anything but overly sentimental and soft. He spoke bluntly but honestly. He reminded the King of who he was, what his responsibilities were, and the inner strength the King had previously developed that would now carry him through the devastating loss of his son.
How well do you accept encouragement? I wrote this article a year ago, so if you need a bit of a refresher, click on the link!
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All Bible verses attributed to the ESV version unless otherwise indicated.
Until Next Week
©2018 Katherine Walden
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