It seems like most of the people around me have it all together. They’re on time (or early) and prepared. They remember things about me — like my birthday or one of my favorite snacks — that I forget about them. Their house (or room, or car) always seems spotless. They’re creative. Talented. The life of the party.
I usually assume people like this don’t need encouragement. They’re already confident in and fully assured of their talents, right? They probably wouldn’t care if I told them I appreciated something they said or did. Surely they’d think I was just trying to flatter them?
A couple of weeks ago, I messaged someone to tell her I appreciated a devotional she had written and shared with me. She messaged me back quickly and thanked me for reaching out, admitting she tends to be hard on herself about what she writes.
I think it’s often easier for us to see where we fall short than to see where we do things well. No matter how talented someone is, they still appreciate an encouraging word. And let’s be honest: Most of us don’t actually have life figured out, so we’ll take all the encouragement we can get. Here are a few tips for how to encourage people in your life.
Be specific. Tell someone exactly what they did or said that stood out to you. When I was in middle school, a few people on separate occasions told me I had a quiet spirit. They meant it as a compliment, but I was more confused than encouraged. What did that even mean? Did they like me best when I didn’t say much? Explain exactly what you appreciate about someone and give an example of what they did that encouraged you.
Be brief. This is where it can get weird. Even if we are really impressed with what someone else does or says, we have to be careful to not go overboard when telling them what we appreciate. Don’t go on and on and on. It’s best to just say what we appreciated — once — and then move on. Even if their response is underwhelming, chances are your encouragement found its mark.
Look for those who often don’t get that affirmation. Maybe someone seems down. Maybe they’ve faced a discouraging or disappointing setback. Maybe they aren’t popular. Take an opportunity to encourage them. A word of warning, though: We can’t see people’s hearts. It may be that someone who seems to have it all together actually needs more encouragement than we know. It’s best to be generous with encouragement and not try to pick and choose too sparingly. I’ve been surprised how often someone in leadership is genuinely grateful for a simple compliment or thank you. So often their work is taken for granted.
I often worry that I’ll be bothering someone by speaking up to encourage them. I’m still not really sure where that comes from. When we’re honest with our compliments, others nearly always appreciate our encouraging words. Again, don’t be weird, but there’s never really been a time that someone spoke up to me and I haven’t appreciated it.
A deeper well to draw from
I started this post thinking about encouragement only in terms of compliments. But biblical encouragement, while it certainly includes compliments, can go so much deeper.
When Paul told the Corinthians to “strive to excel in building up the church,” he probably didn’t just have compliments in mind. The word “encourage” gives this word picture of infusing courage into someone else. I don’t know if that’s actually what the word is supposed to illustrate, but that’s how I picture it when I think of encouragement.
The beauty of this is that even when we don’t feel worthy, we can still point each other Christ. We can still be encouraged by remembering — and reminding each other — that God’s promises don’t depend on our worthiness or talents or creativity or cleanliness or fun personality.
What better way to give courage to those around us than to remind them of God’s promises to all of us?
Copyright 2022 Lauren Dunn. All Rights Reserved.