by Ken Weliever
“What would you do differently if you had your life to live over again?” a young lady asked the Duke of Wellington in his old age. The Duke—who had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 and later served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom—was known as a brilliant, yet very demanding man. He wasn’t known to “shower his subordinates with compliments.” However, when asked this question, he thought for a moment, then replied, “I’d give more praise.”
George M. Adams called encouragement “oxygen to the soul.” Nothing breathes new life into a discouraged person like an encouraging word or deed. Dr. Samuel Johnson observed, “The applause of a single human being is of great consequence.” “Correction does much, but encouragement does more,” once wrote the German poet Goethe. In his fine book, The Power of Encouragement, Dr. David Jeremiah compared encouragement to someone whose car will not start because its weakened battery has lost its charge. But then another person comes alongside and gives it a jump-start. “The strength of the operative car is transferred into the weak battery, and the inoperative car is rejuvenated into action.” That’s the power of encouragement.
The Bible often speaks of the importance of encouragement. The prophet Isaiah exhorted God’s people to “encourage the oppressed” (1:17). “Encourage one another daily,” urged the writer of Hebrews (3:13). “We urge you, brothers,” penned Paul to the Thessalonian church, “warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thes 5:14). With so many things around us that are discouraging, it’s easy to become a discourager. Instead, let’s decide to look for some simple, specific ways we can encourage others. Here are a few ideas…
- If you notice something good, say something. Don’t let shyness hold you back. If you see something you appreciate or admire, mention it. Nothing is too small.
- Think about what encourages you, then practice that in your daily interactions with others.
- When you offer words of praise, be specific, not generic. Point out a concrete attitude, action, or quality you admire and appreciate.
- Practice praise at home. Tell your family how and why you appreciate them.
- Develop the habit of saying “thank you,” even for the small things people do.
- Set a goal to encourage three people every day outside of your home.
- When in a small group setting, look for ways to offer appreciation to each person who contributes to the group.
- When someone encourages you, let them know. Refrain from being a professional critic. We have enough of those. Quit looking for something wrong, and look for something right… something you can praise.
- Offer a smile to everyone you meet.
The late public speaker Cavet Robert once opined, “Three billion people on earth go to bed hungry every night, but four billion people go to bed every night hungry for a simple word of encouragement and recognition.” Finally, these words by leadership guru John Maxwell ought to speak to every preacher, pastor, parent and person who leads others: “If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it—young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous—is changed by it.”
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thes 5:11).