March 14, 2008

How To Be And Encourager In A Discouraging World

Encouragement is hard to come by in life sometimes. We live in a world full of people marred by sin who are much better at seeing what's wrong with the world and the people in it than seeing the good that is happening all around them.

Our news media further this with making sure we are fed hours of the worst things happening on the planets. We are taught this as children because we rarely seize the opportunity to tell our kids when they've done something right, but we are awfully quick to point out when they are doing something wrong. We are taught this in church. When was the last time you truly heard a sermon encouraging you for the progress you have made in your faith?

I think we have this fear sometimes that if we encourage people, they will begin to think that they have arrived and therefore quit trying to progress. When in reality, I think the opposite is true. I think the more we discourage people, the more we cause them to lose hope and the more we stunt their progress. In trying to make them better, we make them far worse.

Why? Because I think it's easier to tell somebody what they've done wrong than it is to tell them what they've done right. Because when we tell someone the things they've done right, we may have to say words like "I appreciate you" or "I'm proud of you" or "I love you" or "I'm thankful for you" or "I couldn't have done it without you". As a general rule, we are poor encouragers. Terrible in many respects. When will we ever get tired of seeing the glass half-empty?

Recently, a guy named Jim Martin, who I have never met personally, but he is a fellow blogger came out with a series called "41 Things Encouragers Ought To Know". You need to read this, print it out, and stick it on every readable place in your home until you become a daily encourager to your family, your friends, your work, your church, and your world. What a difference it would make if we had Christians who were more interested in encouraging one another than grading one another. Anyway, you can read:

I'll also include a few of my favorites below. Be an encouragement to someone today.

7.  Know that an encourager tries to catch another person doing right and affirms that person.  (Don't worry, there will always be people around who are trying to catch people doing the wrong thing.)

9.  Know that an encourager avoids one of the most deadly responses that people can make: silence.  I wonder how many people have worked hard and made themselves vulnerable only to be met with a chilly silence by the people who matter most.

12.  An encourager builds instead of criticizes.  Yes, there are times when a person might have to express a real concern to another.  However, that is likely to be received much better if it is expressed in the context of a relationship built on encouragement.

13.  An encourager has a way of communicating value to another instead of communicating that the person is inadequate or "less than."

14.  An encourager never loses sight of what another is doing right.  Some people become so focused on another's failings that the person is left feeling hopeless.

20.  An encourager communicates hope.  Far too many people live in environments in which they are regularly reminded of the many, many reasons why they will probably fail.

28.  An encourager is very careful with humor.  Many, many people have been devastated by someone who then said, "I was only joking."  An encourager only uses humor that is self-deprecating or is in some way safe.

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