Perhaps you are in shock to read that encouragement can change the world? Did you know that encouragement is one of the most common way through which individuals express support for one another? Furthermore, the concept of encouragement is interwoven in to almost every self-help book, so there has to be some power behind the concept. From a scientific research perspective, there is an entire field of psychology dedicated to encouragement! We also learn in Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, words of affirmation (along the lines of encouragement) is an actual love language! (If you want to learn more about the 5 Love Languages, go check out https://www.5lovelanguages.com/ where you can even discover your own love language!)
The power of encouragement is undeniable, but how do you use it to change the world? Much like when we set goals in the areas of physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and professional, we can break encouragement down into these sections too:
Speaking words of encouragement is probably the easiest and most thought of way to encourage others. Have you ever had a stranger compliment you in public? Or received that phone call on a specific day that has something major going on, just for that person to say, “You’ve got this!” That compliment or phone call can really brighten someone’s day. Imagine if your habit became an “encourager”? You could say things like, “you can do it,” “I trust you will make the best decision for yourself given your circumstance,” or “that showed a lot of courage!” What would happen to those around you? How might you impact their day (and subsequently others’ days) just by a few words of encouragement?
Notes and texts are another way that you can physically encourage someone else. A sticky note placed in an unexpected spot or an animated text message can make all the difference. Notes and texts take just a moment to do (even if you get more creative like using a dry erase marker on a mirror), yet they bring a smile to someone’s face, give them a little more courage to face the day, or simply give them the first time they felt like they could breathe that day. How might a note or text encourage you? How might you use that to encourage others?
Encouragement does not always come in the form of words (verbal or written), we can be encouraging just by being present! Yesterday, as I listened to a story of student nurse, he told me about a patient he encountered. The patient was given the news that she only had a few hours to live. Earlier in the day, she had repeatedly asked the nurses to give her a hug or hold her hand. For whatever reason, it was unable to happen. However, as she was going through some uncomfortable procedures, while wearing an oxygen mask, she appeared scared. This student nurse took her hand. She instantaneously was put at ease. She couldn’t talk and the student nurse didn’t say anything, but the power of the student nurse’s touch and presence made a difference to this woman, particularly in the final hours of her life. Her husband, of sixty plus years, was also in the room during this time. He saw what the student nurse had done. Afterwards, he thanked the student nurse for the kindness displayed. The husband wasn’t able to provide his wife comfort during that procedure, yet he witnessed the comfort the student nurse was able to provide and felt comforted by it. He was encouraged by the encouragement the student nurse had provided to his wife. The action wasn’t grand. Most didn’t notice it, yet it made a difference to that woman and her husband in a time when they really needed encouragement. You may never know the power of a small touch or simply showing up and the encouragement that is felt by it, but it’s there and it is powerful!
There was this woman who went on a date. She had gone through a tumultuous divorce and this was his first date in many years. She met the guy through an online dating service, and this was the first time they were meeting. After just a little while, the man says, “This isn’t working out,” and he gets up and walks out. The woman calls her friend, devastated, and the friend says, “Of course he left! You are so boring to talk to. You are also old looking. Who’d really want that?” The friend continued on saying some very hurtful things. As you read this, you might thing, “She needs a new friend.” I’d agree, but what if I told you those are the words, she had said to herself? We are so quick to tear ourselves down. Imagine if that woman had said more encouraging words to herself. What would change? What if we provided psychological encouragement to ourselves? What would change? How would we change? How would we interact with others?
You can take that a step farther with others, through helping. Sometimes just helping someone out can really help. Taking time to go to your family member’s house who has been sick and help them disinfect can make such a difference. Sometimes, when we offer our help, people are quick to say, “No, I got it. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” Well, I’d encourage you, if you know that person’s heart, you might disregard their “no.” This may not be the most politically correct at this moment, but let me ask you something, how many times have you needed help and you turned down help anyway because you didn’t want to inconvenience them or have someone clean up after you? How would you have felt if someone had disregarded it and just helped anyway? Use your best judgment in this but challenge yourself to extend your listening beyond the words are used and listen to what God is telling you to do.
Many times, we hear, “I’m praying for you.” Believe it or not, prayer is a form of spiritual encouragement. Make sure you are genuinely praying for someone (including yourself) for encouragement. God hears all the prayers for His people and we genuinely help others (and ourselves) when we pray! There is so much power in prayer. If you hear someone having difficulty at any level, put a note in your phone or a small notebook and take some time to pray for them. You could always follow up with verbal or non-verbal forms of encouragement!
Something I didn’t think of and had been suggested to me as I was writing this, is the power of encouragement through counting our blessings! For example, when we think about our blessings, we can be encouraged about our current circumstance, regardless of what they might be. How might we encourage others through their blessings? We go to God and ask Him how to make us an encourager! Through the Holy Spirit, we will learn how to bless others through the gift of encouragement. In fact, we find the encouragement listed as a spiritual gift in Romans 12:7-8, so we just need to seek God and ask Him how we can not only bless others through encouragement but also how we can encourage them to focus on their blessings!
This is not something we talk about. While engaging in encouraging actions can be done with anyone, we often leave out our encouragement actions to our family, friends, church communities, or closer communities. What if you brought your encouragement extended to your professional setting through enthusiastic, smiling, assisting someone else with their job, really listen to someone, acknowledge their contribution at work, notice the positive, and maybe even leave a little note or something? Have you ever had any of things done for you? How did you respond? How did your actions over the rest of the day change? Could you apply this to others in your profession? (Even those fellow stay-at-home parents could be part of your professional network! Remember, we all have networks).
Encouraging others, through non-verbal or verbal, physical or non-physical actions, are like putting the starfishes washed up on the beach back into the ocean. You might not be changing the world in the way you imagined, but you will be changing the world for that one person and really, isn’t that what changes the world? So how are you going to get out and encourage?! Let us know in the comments below?