Encouragement does not come naturally for me. Whether because of nature or nurture, personality or temperament, being encouraging to myself or to others comes with great effort.
“Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
God wants us to encourage others. My fix-it personality needed a deliberate approach in this area. First, I set a goal of encouraging a certain number of people each week. That didn’t work. I just kept forgetting to be encouraging. Then, I enlisted my boys’ help and asked them to remind me to be encouraging. They forgot to remind me. They were teenagers at the time. What was I thinking?
I finally realized I needed a heart change. The Holy Spirit did that by making me face my motives. Instead of encouraging others to make myself look good, 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 Holy Spirit then led me to the following principles to help me be a better encourager:
- 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.
- I gotta be me! Dr. Pepper used to have a commercial with a great song that said, “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. If I encourage in my introverted way, however, I am being who God made me to be, which helps me be a better friend, wife, mother, and servant.
- 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 encourage 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. If respect for how someone lives their life encourages me, then perhaps how I live my life can encourage others.
- 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. When I’m around people I know, though, 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. 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.