When I became ill in 2012 after the birth of our fifth son, and we decided to have our children attend public school for a year; all of their educators were an answered prayer during that difficult time. Yesterday I had the blessing of running into one of Drew’s third grade teachers. Within a minute of speaking to her, it was easy to see why my son had flourished under her instruction:
She is an encourager.
Whether by nature or discipline, encouragers have a way of bringing out the best in everyone they encounter and motivating them to achieve…
Greatness; awesomeness; desire to (sometimes unknowingly) fulfill the role God designed them for.
As I pondered my conversation with Drew’s teacher, I was astonished by the way she took a simple discussion of, “How are you feeling? How is the family?” and turned it into an opportunity to build me up in less than ten minutes! There I was exhausted; my brain packed with concerns over things I hadn’t accomplished yet she was able to calm my agitated spirit, leaving me with renewed strength to recollect myself.
Being a parent, positive reinforcement and praise are a big part of raising our children; and who wouldn’t desire to uplift a family member or friend dealing with hardships?
But do I strive to consciously use my words to encourage others at every opportunity; particularly when there doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason to do so?
My son’s teacher had no idea how difficult my day had been; I made sure to don my “I’ve got it all together” face before I left the house. From appearance alone, I looked to be cruising along without a hitch.
Her encouragement came not through visually seeing my anxiety but because she understands the importance of continually lifting others up above herself.
Using the Word of God and biblical principles He set in motion, the Lord gave all of us the ability to influence others in positive, life-changing ways. What a powerful character trait to carry throughout our time here on earth!
Why would I not want to invest energy in strengthening such a wonderful tool in myself? Why wasn’t I? Sure, some individuals are natural encouragers but after some serious self-examination, it was clear to me that I had chosen to accept whatever capabilities I employed to build another person up as being just “good enough.” I mean, painting a silver lining for a friend can be effortless when we recognize the need but what about emboldening others…just because?
And what about encouraging those I am at odds with?
I had arrived at a sore spot. Journeying through this life, it is nearly impossible to not find ourselves in disagreement with someone. Whether it be family or friends; a co-worker or classmate; even a fellow brother or sister in Christ, we will not see eye to eye in every circumstance that arises.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NASB
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:8-10 NASB
As I thought about the implication of these verses, it was clear that neither Paul nor Peter indicated I should only “encourage those I agree with”; they meant EVERYONE. Period. With Drew’s teacher (and apparently now mine as well) fresh in my thoughts, it was easier for me to recognize why God desires us to continually build others up:
Encouragement changes how the giver and receiver views themselves and others.
Encouragement emphasizes the best in both parties; softening our often strict criticism and harsh perspectives of one another we may unfairly hold onto. Encouragement is expressing love to an individual despite what we ascertain as their flaws and serves to remind ourselves of our own shortcomings. When we encourage a person whose viewpoints don’t coincide with ours, it is much easier to see where there is beautiful harmony between us in Christ.
When I make a choice to inspire and bolster the confidence of someone else, it allows us both to attain spiritual growth.
Lesson learned. May I work more diligently to not just uplift and praise the obvious; the uncomplicated but be challenged to intentionally insert words of encouragement into every conversation…especially those where I struggle to find peace.