The TRUE me, part 4: Becoming an EncouragerJun 26, 2019
This is part 4 of The TRUE me: A new approach to goal setting. While each piece can be enjoyed individually, please check out the earlier parts for a more complete picture!
The look on Grace’s face after her basketball game was priceless. “Guess what! Mrs. Durbak said I keep getting better every week! She thinks I should play again next year! I think I’m going to try out!”
Nevermind that we’d basically had to force Grace to join the team in the first place. Nevermind that we’d been telling her how much she was improving. Our wisdom and words seemed to roll off her back. But when another mom stepped in and encouraged her, mountains moved.
Our words are powerful. It is up to us to use them well.
Last week we talked about the importance of living intentionally. This is just as true of our words. We must use them intentionally in ways that build up the people around us.
More than a nice word
Often we equate encouragement with being nice. Compliments. Saying things that make the other person feel good. This is a great place to start, but encouragement is so much more.
Over my last decade or so of motherhood, I’ve read many articles cautioning me on how I use my words. Parenting websites warn against over-praising our children. Don’t just tell them good job! They admonish. Praise their efforts, not their results! Empty praise can make them lazy! Results-oriented praise sets them up for failure! Whatever you’re doing as a parent, it’s wrong! Stop now! You get the picture.
Really, though, the bottom line is this: Encouragement is more than just nice words. It is building someone up using truth and love as your foundation.
A push in the right direction
Sometimes encouraging someone means giving them a push, even when it’s hard. We’ve all seen those inspirational stories about a runner who can’t quite make it to the finish line. Someone comes alongside them and starts cheering them on—or even better, puts their arm around the exhausted athlete—and helps them across the finish line. It’s a beautiful picture. And it’s so much deeper than just “saying something nice.”
Because you see, you could approach that weary runner and say, “Good job! You made it three-fourths of the way! Wow! Now just sit and rest.” And that is nice. It might make them feel good in the moment. But the real encouragement is in telling them not to give up, even when they are tired and hurting and ready to quit. It is coming alongside them and helping them to make it all the way to the finish line.
The truth in love
Encouraging someone doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with them. If a friend excitedly confides that she is falling in love with someone other than her husband, this idea of encouragement as “being nice” would quickly become confusing. Saying “That’s so exciting! He sounds like such a great guy!” sounds like the nice, feel-good response. But what my friend really needs to hear is a hard truth, that pursuing romance outside of her marriage is unhealthy and dangerous.
Still, we need to speak the truth in love. Our society is passionate about being transparent and honest. While it’s a great idea, I think we can forget in our obsession that honesty needs to be tempered with a little grace. Encouraging someone to make a hard choice is much different than berating them into it.
Stepping out of our comfort zone
Being an encourager can be uncomfortable at first. With our families, it is easy to slip into the rut of pointing out the negatives. With our friends, we may excel at handing out compliments, but being bold enough to speak the truth in love on hard things might not come as easily. And speaking words of life to a stranger can be downright scary. What if she thinks I’m a total weirdo?!? But let’s be honest: I have never taken a compliment and thought, “Wow, she was weird.” Instead, my day has been made. My step is lighter, my mood is lifted.
And let’s not forget to be encouragers to ourselves. Ouch, that one is hard. I’m better at being my own worst critic. But in the words of Lysa TerKeurst, “as a woman thinks, so she eventually acts” (Finding I AM). What an important concept: My negative thoughts about myself will affect my actions. I want to speak truth and love into my own heart as much as into anyone else’s.
Being an encourager is so closely linked to living intentionally. It is not about doing Big Important Things, but recognizing that our everyday things—the very words we speak to ourselves and people around us—can have a big impact over time.
How will you live as an encourager today?
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