How to… Be Encouraging Just By Being You

Encouragement does not come naturally for me. Not something I’m proud to admit. Whether because of nature or nurture, personality or temperament, being encouraging to myself or to others comes with great effort, if it comes at all. Yet, the Bible says to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

Encouraging others is a desire of God’s heart. After this realization, my fix-it personality set to work figuring out how to be more encouraging. First, I set a goal of encouraging a certain number of people each week. That didn’t work. Honestly, I just kept forgetting to be encouraging. Then, I enlisted my boys’ help and asked them to remind me to be encouraging. But I think they were too used to me being me, and they forgot to remind me. So what did I do next? Well, I gave up for a while, not out of frustration but more out of knowing the timing wasn’t right. The Holy Spirit needed to do some work within me.

I knew I needed a heart change. I needed to see something differently or something new that I just wasn’t seeing. Since motivation wasn’t my issue, I started to see that the focus of my motivation was wrong. Instead of encouraging to make me look good, or at least not look like I didn’t care about others, I needed to encourage because I wanted to and because I believed in who and what I was encouraging. I needed to stop encouraging just to be encouraging and because it pleased God.

The following 4 realizations have helped me to at least start to be a more encouraging person.

  1. The Golden Rule is a great starting point. Not just a cliché saying, the Golden Rule actually comes from scripture (Matthew 7:12). To apply this rule to encouragement, consider the ways you are most encouraged and then encourage others in those same ways. For example, I enjoy being complimented on what I say, so I try to encourage others when they say something that encourages me.
  2. I gotta be me! A new Dr. Pepper commercial has a great song that says, “I gotta be me.” Being anyone else means bucking up against the “one of a kind” person God made me to be. What does this have to do with encouragement? When I am who God created me to be, I am better able to be encouraging. If I try to be my sanguine friends, I feel constantly sick to my stomach and worn out. But, if I encourage in my introverted way, I am being who God made me to be, which helps me be a better friend, wife, mother and servant.
  3. Apply Paul’s formula for life. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul gives a simple formula for living life: Live quietly, mind your own business and work with your hands. How does this encouraging others? Verse 12 says that living this type of life shows “proper behavior” that earns the respect of others. For me, having respect for someone is encouraging because they hold qualities that motivate me to be a better person. And, in keeping with the above two points, if respect for how someone lives their life encourages me, then perhaps how I live my life can encourage others.
  4. Balance listening and talking. As an introvert, I don’t say much when I’m in a group of people I don’t know well or if I am uncomfortable for some reason. But when I’m around people I know, I definitely talk more, often too much. Being too quiet makes people uncomfortable, and talking too much makes them feel unimportant. At least, that’s what it does to me. So, as I work to become more encouraging, I need to balance how much I talk with how much I don’t.

Encouraging others means accepting who God made them to be and appreciating the gifts, abilities and viewpoints He gave them. When we support others in a way that pushes them to be the best they can be, encouragement results.

DISCUSSION: What do 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11 add to this topic of encouragement?

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24 Replies to “How to… Be Encouraging Just By Being You”

  1. Encouragement isn't only about building others up for their own sake, but for the building up of Christ within their lives. Encourage one another with the hope of their salvation.

  2. Two of the ways I try to encourage people are one: I do something for them anonymously that hopefully meets a need of theirs and leave a note telling them to thank God and pass it forward; two I send notes to people telling them things which they do that are encouraging.

    I remember one time a person told me a small thing that I did that they liked. Since then I never fail to do that thing and in part it is because I always hear their compliment in my head.

  3. Great post Kari. I'm in a similar boat as you. Giving encouragement is a constant struggle, just ask my wife!

    I love how you said we need to accept people for who they are and the gifts they contain. Such wise words.

    Got a question though on number 1. You're encouraging others in the way that you like to be or for things you like to be encouraged. Could this tread dangerous waters if the other person doesn't have the same language as you? Similar to the struggles many married couples face because of different love languages?

    1. Great question! Yes, it could be treading dangerous waters IF we just stayed there and didn't grow from that. BUT, when I didn't know where to start, just doing what was encouraging for me got me at least started with being encouraging. Sort of got me thinking about it. Once I got rolling and more in the habit of being encouraging, I felt more in tuned with trying other ways that matched their love language. Kind of goes both ways though. When a spouse knows the other is not great at encouraging, just seeing the effort should mean something. Also, knowing that I am trying (or my husband is trying) to be encouraging (even if it doesn't match my love language) is encouraging. At least, this is the path that is proving to be true for me. What do you think?

    2. Joe, I agree with Kari's response. It's a place to start. Touch and time get my attention best but other "love languages" don't hurt. As a friend said, "Just 'cuz gifts aren't my love language doesn't mean I don't want any." The danger isn't doing it wrong as much as it is not doing it all.

  4. Kari, Thanks for this. I needed it. I am an extrovert and love to encourage others. But you really hit home when you mentioned that you aren't good at encouraging yourself either. My negative discouraging tapes play in my head most of the time, and that "does not honor the 'one of kind' person God made me to be." You have given me the nudge I need to pray and set goals to play new messages of God's love and encouragement. Many blessings!

    1. That's awesome Deb! I am encouraged by you being encouraged. Love how that works! For me to be more positive with myself, I had to reprogram my thoughts. This happened through saturation with God's Word as well as through reading positive books. Getting around positive and encouraging people is important too. Had to really keep out the negative and deliberately push it away. Tough process at time but well worth the struggle & effort.

  5. I think a lot of people generally think nice thoughts and look well at others, but we just forget to intentionally share that information in encouraging ways. For me, it's not so much about learning to appreciate others, but it's more about learning to communicate that well and often.

    1. I also believe that we often think nice thoughts and look well at others and that we need to intentionally share that information. However, I also have to admit that my melancholy personality (that's my excuse anyway… it's really a flesh battle) tends to focus more critically at times and to "forget" about the positive as my focus gets off of beng encouraging and too much on what needs corrected and how to correct it all to easily. BUT, your challenge to learn to communicate encouragement well and often is one I think that many people battle too, especially in this culture where we are so busy. Making a deliberate point to encourage when it comes to mind is an important habit to cultivate too for sure.

  6. For some of us, Kari, it seems encouraging others comes naturally or easily; for everyone else, there's hope 🙂

    I remind others of the same thing I am reminded of – skilled people are not born with their skills. They may be born with a predisposition or a talent, but skills come from practice – sometimes you can practice on yourself 🙂

    1. I do get frustrated when I see others who seem to encourage so easily and naturally. Yet, I need to stay aware of what you said about developing skills. Talent means nothing if we don't grow and develop, and even those of us without talent can grow and develop. Good point!

  7. Wonderfully thoughtful post! I was glad to learn that there is at least one other introvert out there who struggles with swinging between the extremes of "too reticent" and "too garrulous". Many people don't understand that introversion doesn't necessarily mean being a tongue-tied shrinking violet. It's about energy and focus. I can talk the leg off most anyone I know when the subject at hand is sufficiently meaty (and not about "me".), but put me at a "meet and greet" and I do my best to arrive late, leave early, and still suffer excruciating pain every blessed moment of the time I'm awkwardly standing around with my glass of punch and a foolish look on my face. Sorry, I didn't mean to go off on that tangent

    1. Yeah, there are a few of us out there, and it's always glad to find another compadre! I've taken several personality tests before, and my combination of personality traits is found in 2% of people… that can feel sort of depressing sometimes if I allow it to. You're right that introversion is largely misunderstood. In fact, people think of it as shyness, which is not true. They also think of it as not being social, which isn't true either. I am very social one-on-one, but I struggle with a group of people. Funny that you mention meet and greet, because I do my best to not have to mingle much. It's so painful! So, your tangent is well-received and understood extremely well. I've written here and there on my blog about my introversion, mostly in an attempt to come to terms with it myself. I still struggle with it, especially since the large majority of my church family are extroverted sanguines and cholerics. Seems like the church is a breeding ground for extroverts and introverts seem, well, out of place at times. So, there's a tangent back at ya! 🙂

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