Who doesn't love a cute dog picture, am I right?
An article on rover.com caught my eye the other day. It showed pictures of dogs before and after being told they were a "good boy." This little fella to the left was too cute not to share.
Just look at that face! That's a face that's been encouraged!
Encouragement is a powerful thing.
If you’re ever by Parkway Heights UMC in Hattiesburg, I invite you to come into the office suite and just take a walk down the hall making sure to look at everyone’s doors as you pass by. You’ll see that they are all covered with words of affirmation—notes of encouragement entitled “High-Fives,” “Awesome Citations,” or “Nailed It.” Each week at the beginning of staff meeting we hand out these little affirmations. We take the time to do this every week, even if we have a full agenda with much to cover.
These notes may seem like a small thing, but for our team, they make a big difference. Everybody lights up when we take part in this. Not only the people receiving the notes, but the people writing the encouraging notes find that their spirits are lifted up right along with them.
Why is it that having someone say, “Hey, I noticed that you did something that turned out great,” or “Thanks for helping me out,” or “You rock for having excessively good hair days and smart footwear choices,” makes us feel great? Because we all need encouragement.
There’s an additional exercise that our senior pastor just started with us. He gave each of us an empty jar. We decorated our jars with our names, and each week everyone on staff takes time to write a note of encouragement to one other person on staff. Then we fill that person’s jar with our notes about the good things we see in him or her. Whenever that person needs a pick-me-up, those notes are there.
Does this practice take time out of our meeting? Yep!
Is it worth it? You bet!
There is not one person who works in this office suite who hasn’t been told by their co-workers that they are valuable to the team and valuable as a person. It makes for a very joyful environment, and I believe it also makes us more creative, more hopeful, more encouraging people ourselves.
Each of us should be intentional about incorporating the art and practice of encouragement into our lives…into our daily routines, even.
Because there are too many people who throw wet blankets over the head of someone who is just trying to shine the light God gave them. But who wants to live in a world where nobody shines? Nobody does! That’s a boring world. That’s a sad world.
We want to live in a world where people are encouraged to shine!
But our own insecurities about who we are will cause us to withhold encouragement from others that could help them shine. Because in our insecurity-warped thinking we deduce that withholding encouragement, or even worse, tearing someone else down, will make us feel better about ourselves.
But the truth is actually quite opposite of that.
Building someone else up will not take anything away from you.
Tearing someone else down will not add to who you are or make you feel better about who you are.
We shouldn’t be threatened by others’ gifts because we are made better by others’ gifts and their courage to use them. I love this quote I saw recently by an unknown author, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” It's so true! Nothing is taken from the one sharing their own light with another. It just makes more light. And our world definitely needs more of that.
Final word. If you withhold encouragement from others because you don’t want them to get “the big head,” let me encourage YOU in this way:
You are NOT responsible for someone else’s ego.
Flattery, not encouragement, is what creates pride.
Flattery is fake.
Encouragement is genuine.
Flattery is about YOU getting something out of the other person.
Encouragement is all about the receiver, not the giver.
Encouragement actually helps foster humility—in you— and that’s the one person whose ego you can do something about.
In addition to my door being covered in “High-Fives,” I am surrounded in my office by the notes of love and encouragement I have received from others. Is this because I’m full of myself? Am I bragging? Far from it. It’s because, some days, discouragement is close at hand. Some days I forget. Some days I feel alone. And those are the days that I look up, read what someone else has said is true about me, and remember.
May you open your eyes to the beautiful and good things in the people around you. And may you strengthen yourself--and them!-- by using your words to build up.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11