How Much is Encouragement Worth?

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I can go a good week and a half on a sincere compliment.  No really – I mean flying high, feeling good, nothing can bring me down kind of happy reveling in knowing something I did really blessed someone or comforted them or they thought was just done well.  I love when that happens!

My children love it, too.  Yesterday, one of my younger kids did an absolutely outstanding job of cleaning the kitchen – it actually gleamed!  I said (in front of other siblings) how pleased I was with the wonderful job that he had done – how he is really growing up and taking pleasure in his own good work – how thankful I was that he had done his best and had done a truly good and thorough job.  I hugged him and as I did, he stood taller and straighter and he couldn’t stop grinning.  He gleamed, too.

But if I’m really honest, I’m not generous about doing that for people on a regular basis – certainly not as generous as I could be.  Once in a while I ask myself, “Self – just why are you so slow and stingy about giving out sincere and meaningful encouragement to others?”

I never have a very good response to my own question.

1 Thessalonians  5:11 says this, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”

I’ve read that a lot of times – I’ve memorized it.  But I’m not very obedient – certainly not obedient enough to think that someone would rename me “The Encourager.”

But commands aren’t really optional, now, are they?  If I know what I’m supposed to be doing, and yet I don’t do it, then its sin – isn’t it?

So how do I go about correcting this sin in my life?  This sin of not offering thanks or encouragement or appreciation for the good things in the lives of those around me…

Shockingly (or not) I don’t have to look very far.  The following verses in the same passage give us lots of instruction on that very thing:

“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.   And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.  See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men.  Rejoice alwayspray without ceasing;  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (italics added)

Did you catch that, too?  Appreciate.  Esteem.  Live in peace.  Admonish.  Encourage.  Help.  Be patient.  Always seek after that which is good.  Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In everything give thanks.

I’ve told myself in the past to be mindful of opportunities that come along to show people appreciation, or to encourage, but I don’t think that’s really the right posture to take.  It’s sort of been a “say thank you when you think of it” kind of attitude, and in light of the above, it just doesn’t seem to cut it.

Why, when it costs me absolutely nothing, do I tend to be so miserly with the treasure of words that would lift my husband or children or pastor or friends up?  Why, when there are always ways to speak words of encouragement into someone else’s life, do I even want to withhold the plenty of which I possess?  When God is pouring encouragement into my life – through his word and his people and circumstances – do I try to soak it all up for myself and not share it freely with those around me?  I’m acting as if I believe that God himself will run out of words that lift me up and I will be left without enough.  How foolish!

Please forgive me family and loved ones.  And Lord, please forgive my selfish heart that would hoard even words to myself.

Rather than “being mindful” of opportunities that may present themselves, I believe I would better honor God and those around me if I create opportunities to encourage, appreciate, esteem.  I know that  when I do this, I am encouraged as well.  I get my eyes off of myself and focus on the One who has filled my life with people who are faithful, and kind, and generous.

So, join me, won’t you, in not just noticing opportunities to build the people around you up, but in making those opportunities instead.  I think, that just as my son brightened under the radiant warmth of sincere appreciation, we’ll find that we can be lights in many more dark places than we currently are.  Let me know how it goes.

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13 responses »

  1. Laurie I have to disagree with you dear friend, for you are always so quick to encourage, to inspire and lavish love on me and others. I see it every time i get to spend precious time with you. I love you sister and i want to encourage you~ that you do a GREAT job of building others up and spurring them on to love and good deeds. The ways you are thankful are overwhelming to me. :o)

  2. Today, during the worship service, I was in the lobby when the children were released for children’s church. During the rush of the young lads to be the first in line at the double doors, one young lad bumped the women’s ministry table display and knocked over the vase of artificial flowers and the flowers spilled on to the floor. None of the young lads budged to correct the situation, for fear of loosing their precious place in line. I was just about to use my leader voice to encourage those responsible for the incident to take responsibility and clean it up, when another young lad who had nothing to do with the incident walked over and started cleaning it up. He was barely tall enough to place the flowers back into the vase, and not old enough to tell me his first and last name. (Or at least I didn’t understand.) I thanked him several times, but wanted to tell his parents what an encouragement this young was to me.

    • Great story, Bill – hopefully you’ll be able to find this young man’s parents and let them know that he (and they!) are doing a great job!
      Thanks for sharing,
      Laurie

  3. Thank you for this post! We’ll chat later to unpack my thankfulness, but I’ve got to run! Love you! (I have that packet for you too and a gift for Suzanna!) So thankful God has brought your family to our church!

  4. I’ve been reading your stuff and liking it. And I’m being challenged by it. I’m curious– how do you CREATE an opportunity to encourage, appreciate, or esteem someone?

    • Thanks, Laura – it’s challenging me as well!

      As for creating opportunities… Usually there are lots of things that people around us do that we can commend them for – we just don’t. We take for granted that our husbands are getting up every day and going to work on time whether they “feel” like it or not. We just assume that he’ll fix that leaky faucet – or tire – or whatever, and we don’t say anything about it when he’s done. Or, we just assume that our pastors, or Sunday School teachers, or Bible study leaders will have diligently prepared for the sermon or lesson and we don’t say anything encouraging to them when they’re done. We see people doing their jobs at the grocery store or doctor’s office and we don’t comment.

      They’re not really expecting us to comment – but when we do, it goes such a long, long way to build them up.

      Additionally, and maybe (?) more poignantly, there are times when we are quick to criticize – a bad sermon, a job left undone, or a job obviously poorly done. Creating a way to encourage, appreciate, or esteem in those circumstances can be the last thing with think or want to do. But how much more helpful might it be if we could actively look for some way to build that person up? “I know that part was a bit rough, but this was really good. Keep going, friend – you’ll do much better next time, I’m sure.”

      I think being mindful of building one another up will make us aware of many more opportunities that are actually already there than what we’ve been aware of – but I think being mindful of creating ways to build one another up will go even further.

  5. So, we’re not actually creating opportunities? Opportunities to encourage are all around us– we just need to be more purposeful in noticing and acting on them?

    • I think a lot of it is just noticing the many opportunities that are there, but I think when we can see through something that looks bad and find a way to encourage through it we’re really creating an opportunity that might not have been there, with our former perspective.

      Maybe we’re saying the same thing – that the opportunities are there but we need fresh eyes to see them when I’m saying take something where you don’t see an opportunity and make one.

      The point is to actively search out ways to bring encouragement, express appreciation, and build proper esteem into one another’s lives. Let’s not settle for being passive and waiting for those opportunities to reveal themselves to us.

      Does that make any more sense?? 🙂

  6. OK, gotcha. Next question– does it ever get to the point where words of encouragement given too often or too freely begin to lose sincerity?

    • Laura:
      I think it only gets to that point when we get to the point of being insincere.

      Do YOU ever get tired of someone genuinely appreciating your thoughtfulness or efforts on their behalf? I know you to be an incredibly thoughtful, generous person – do you hear that too much? (I know I haven’t said it to you nearly enough!!) Have you ever gotten so much sincere gratitude, or appreciation that you just wanted them to stop?

      I guess if I had hundreds or thousands of people saying the same thing to me over and over again, I might – but that’s not likely to happen to most of us, is it? And, even if it did, I’d worry more about me getting a big head than the person extending the compliment being insincere! 🙂

      Seriously, I don’t think there is any danger in going overboard unless we’re being trite or insincere ourselves.

      I am not advocating making something up to make the other person feel good. I’m talking about seeking out those things that are good, lovely, right, pure, admirable, excellent, noble, and/or praise-worthy in another person and then speaking up rather than being silent, or worse, not noticing.

      Thanks for “thinking out loud” with me on this – it’s helping me clarify my thoughts. I hope it’s helping you as well.

      Love you!

  7. Heck no, I don’t think anyone gets tired of genuine appreciation. But I think my genuine-ness must turn to insincerity far quicker than yours. You’re a better man than I.

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