When broken down to its roots, the word “encourage” literally means to put courage into another person.
I saw the best picture of this at the pool this summer.
I was dozing in a lounge chair when a loud noise jolted me awake. There was cheering, hollering and clapping. I looked around and saw a boy on the high dive, inching his way to the edge of the board, fearful of the 12-foot jump. He took a step forward and then a step back. The board was shaking with his trembling legs.
Before long, everyone at the pool was doing the slow clap, and then the wave with their arms in the air. The pool deck was like a football stadium in the fourth quarter. His family started cheering his name, and the rest of us joined. His dad stood on the side of the pool waving a thumbs up in the air. His brother cheered for him in the water. It seemed like everyone was trying their hardest to put courage into the boy.
After a while, fear overcame him, and he decided to come down. A few hours later he built up the courage to climb up and try again. The pool erupted with noise again, but after a few minutes of looking down, he climbed back down the ladder. He did this three more times.
Everyone believed he could do it, and their belief allowed him the bravery to try again. Later in the evening, right before the pool closed, he finally jumped. I’ve never heard a louder applause. Everyone felt the accomplishment with him. He climbed out of the water with the biggest smile and got back in line to do it again.
We all need encouragement. Sometimes we need it over and over again until the courage and hope builds within us. First Corinthians 12:25-27 says, “So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
If anyone should be known for encouragement, it should be Christians. The Bible is full of verses explaining the importance of encouraging the disheartened, down and weak, and also having hope and rejoicing with others.
We have the power to put courage into others. We also have the power to drain their courage. Knowing what a big difference encouragement makes in your own life, it’s important to remember the impact your encouragement can have on others. We never know when the going is tough or the road is long for someone else.
Here are a few ways you could encourage someone today.
See the strengths in others rather than pointing out or trying to improve their weaknesses. We all have different gifts. What comes easily to you may not come naturally to someone else. Acknowledge their strengths and build them up in the ways you see them working, loving or serving others.
Speak encouragement quickly. If an encouraging thought comes to mind, share it. Don’t let the opportunity pass. Often when we resist the urge to encourage someone, it’s because our own sin or insecurity gets in the way. Perhaps it is fear of what they might think, fear of how it will be perceived or maybe our own jealousy. Put your own insecurity aside. Highlighting someone’s good qualities doesn’t mean that you don’t measure up. Put the other person first.
Pray for the person you want to encourage. Letting someone know you are praying for them can be a great way to start a deeper conversation. It is powerful for the recipient to know that you see them and are lifting them up to God in prayer.
Use Scripture to remind and encourage people. His Word offers gentle guidance and hope and has answers for every situation in life. No matter how long we have walked in relationship with Christ, we need to be reminded of His truth. Share specific promises and characteristics of God with fellow believers. Sharing His Word with someone may be the words they need to hear. Psalm 19:8 says, “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.”
Celebrate! Make celebration a regular part of your relationships. Celebrate victories no matter how large or small. It will mean more to them than you know. A handwritten note, favorite treat or coffee, meal or a phone call can go a long way.
Show up. Realize the power of your presence. If you are part of a Bible study or small group, be consistent. Your presence in someone’s life matters more than you know. Your involvement encourages others that they are part of a community of faith and are not alone. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as we see the day approaching.”
Share. Tell people how they encourage you. It can be easy to think that the people I look up to already know the impact they have on me. It’s obvious to me, so it must be obvious to them, right? Wrong. Our mentors and role models need to know that their faithfulness impacts us and is an encouragement to us.
Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today.’” Opportunities abound today. Don’t let the chance to place courage into another person pass you by.
Madalyn Latter is a Women’s Ministry associate at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.