by robert dodman
So here is the irony of this article; I was encouraged to write it because of my response to the original article Where are all the Encouragers. It is a good read and it brings up an important point. As an added bonus in the comments you can read my original response and the conversation that followed. The focus of that conversation was that we are all encouragers.
Encouragement is a big topic, and I don’t think anyone can truly search it from top to bottom. I have thought about it for 6 months since the idea was raised, and at first, when I thought about writing this, I felt as though there would not be much to go on outside the original text and boy was I wrong. Encouragement is as simple as saying thank you and as complex as a lifelong relationship: the process may simply be placing one brick on another or building the Taj Mahal.
As an example of how encouragement can take different forms, my brother needed some encouragement and all I could do was show up give him a hug and listen; no slogans, no words, no preaching. In another instance of encouragement, the conversation was extremely word heavy and the other person listened intently to all that was said.
Another thing about encouragement is that it doesn’t have to be all flowery and kind words that build you up. Sometimes it can be words—that in other contexts—would seem mean or insensitive but is actually encouragement. For example I had a friend of mine tell me “You are not allowed to be sad.” How rude! Didn’t they know what I was going through? Don’t they care? Of course they did. In this circumstance, they needed to speak like this because what I needed to hear, in this immediate moment, was: 1- this was only temporary, 2- Joy is my strength, 3- That they viewed me as a reliable and calm person. When I understood this, it became a huge encouragement to me.
Well what is encouragement anyway? The best way I can think of to define it is “to embolden one to action or continued action, specifically when they have the ability to do so”. The first part of this definition is generally what you would find in most dictionaries and the latter part is what I have added. I added this because it is a cruel and disheartening thing when you are expected to do something that you are not capable of completing. Similar to being told to sit in the corner of a round room, to truly encourage there has to be an ability to follow through with the encouragement otherwise it is a fruitless endeavor.
Coaches encourage athletes to do what the coach knows they are capable of. Coaches push athletes past their limits to do what seemed impossible but always had the potential for. So according to this definition I started to think through examples from my life and the Bible: especially through Psalms and Proverbs, and the parables of Jesus. Then it jumped out at me that the Bible as a whole is encouragement in one form or another! Right from the first words spoken to man “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it,” To the very last words of Jesus in Revelation 22:20: “Surely I come quickly”. Entire Books of the Bible are encouragement in one form or another. Psalms and Proverbs are ‘happy’ books, Ecclesiastes not so much but still encouraging, Isaiah and Jeremiah have warnings and judgment but still encourage Israel to repent and return to God. The whole history of Israel in the Old Testament is encouragement, in itself, when we realize that God does not forsake those he loves.
In the New Testament the gruesome torture and death of our Lord and Saviour is part of the greater narrative of encouragement that God would himself dies for us and is raised from the grave to ensure that we have a place with him in Heaven. Then Paul’s letters are pure encouragement to repent, to grow, and not grow weary. Philemon is a short but powerful letter which seems to be specifically encouragement. Revelation, the last and most difficult to understand, is itself ultimately encouraging, God is Victorious!
I could keep going but I hope you see the point. There is no course, doctorate, training, or experience that will make you into a master encourager. There is no perfect formula either. Between the Bible and what life has taught us we see that encouragement comes in many forms. Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it is hidden in what might seem harsh at first. Saying thank you to the Sunday school worker and looking them in the eye as you do goes a long way. Maybe encouragement is contacting a teacher or mentor, an old friend or a youth leader that impacted your life and sharing how you appreciate what they did for you. Tell your parents that despite their errors you love them and are grateful for them. Listening to a young child’s story even though they are rambling on and on. It is all encouragement.
Encouragement is not about having the exact right words—or any words at all—it’s about being there for someone who needs encouragement because we all need encouragement.
Thanks for Reading.
Robert is a down to earth blue collar worker who thinks deeply about the things of life faith. He loves Jesus, loves his church and loves people. He is a loving husband and farther of two boys.
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