Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
“For some time,” writes a friend, “one idea comes back to me over and over again: to encourage.” He explains, “I was raised in a German subculture, where we praise people with the words: ‘Not completely bad!’ Therefore, encouragement doesn’t come easy to me.” You may be able to relate to what Ebbe Beck wrote, too. How much easier it is to point out the flaws and the failures of others instead of reinforcing them with positive statements which serve as encouragement.
I smiled as I read his words: “Not completely bad!” Wow! That should really make you feel good. Not even, “pretty good!” or even “great job,” but just “not completely bad.”
Why is it so difficult to be an encourager? My German friend would point out that we are victims of our culture, perhaps even prisoners of the same. Some who have grown up in cultures where parents never told their children, “I love you,” or demonstrated that with hugs, find it hard to be very loving themselves. Give them a hug and they stiffen like a board, so what we observed and received growing up tends to replay in our own lives.
There is another reason, one which sociologists may not recognize but students of both history and the Bible are quick to note. The habit of encouragement runs counter to our old human natures, which are selfish. It’s almost as though within the human soul there is a small reservoir of praise and if we ladle it out in very large quantities, we are apt to run out before we get to the end, so we parse it out very sparingly—“not completely bad!”
The fact is that the wellspring of encouragement deep within your heart is a self-replenishing reservoir. The more encouragement you dispense, the more the Holy Spirit pours within your heart, so the supply is unending.
Ebbe, my “not completely bad” friend, has made the decision to be an encourager. Never will his children do something well and hear the German equivalent of “not completely bad!”
So how do you cultivate the habit of encouragement? Let’s face it. Learning new habits never comes easy. I’d suggest you first locate the reservoir of encouragement deep within your heart. Never discovered it? OK, experiment. Start with your wife, (or husband, as the case may be), your kids, and your own family. Don’t be gushy or insincere, but say something positive, encouraging, and uplifting. Do it with sincerity and meaning, but DO IT.
With practice it comes easier, right? OK, having done this in your own family, strive to encourage someone beyond your immediate circle—people you work with, people you encounter, people who may not particularly be nice to you.
What happens? When you encourage others, you are uplifted yourself, and that reservoir of encouragement within your own heart begins to bubble if not eventually flow.
God gave specific instructions to the Israelites to encourage Joshua, the son of Nun, because he was to lead the nation into Canaan. Paul instructed the Thessalonians to “encourage each other” with the words he had written, and again “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11). Hebrews 3:13 exhorts us to “encourage one another daily.” The reality is, we need encouragement. So much in the world is negative.
If God commands us to do that, better cultivate the habit. And in doing the work of an encourager, you’ll be amazed how catching it is and how much more your presence will be welcomed no matter where you go.
Resource reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-15