Sometimes when we encourage others, we need some encouragement in return. I remember needing a little encouragement one day and someone I knew asked about my business ventures, and the moment I started to share with them, they began telling me in great detail about their family member’s business. I had barely spoken a couple of words, but here I was nodding and listening politely to the story about his family member and how big he was going to make it. It was as if asking about my business had just been something to do. No real concern. No real interest. I started reflecting back, and it wasn’t the first time this had happened recently. Another person I had shared my business ventures with began telling me how successful her family member was in comparison to what I was doing. After that remark, I had to remember that one of our jobs as Christians is not to be easily offended, so again, I smiled and nodded.
These occurrences made me stop and think about the fact that often, we have to encourage ourselves if we want to keep moving forward in life. In both cases, I know these individuals meant no harm. They only did what so many of us do, which is relinquish the opportunity to listen and encourage someone else, by directing the conversation back on themselves or people they know. Both persons had initially asked about my business, but left me only to share a sentence or two about it, and in so many words insinuated that their family member’s business was so much bigger and better than mine. Don't gasp. That's life; it happens. Thank God for the spirit of “Hush.” I didn’t say anything, but rather encouraged them and appreciated the fact that their family member was doing so great! In reflecting on those two conversations, I feel like maybe those two people needed the encouragement even more than me at that moment, even if the success was indirectly related to them.
I don’t say all of this to seem like such a perfectly Holy person because I know I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing at some point in my life. I’m saying this because I was reminded that as much as we may need some encouragement at a particular time, we can’t look for people to pat us on the back and encourage us with their approval. We have to look to God for that. Matter of fact, we have to look to God for everything. When the source of our approval is God, we will consistently have what we need. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 tells us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (NLT) This is not to say that we don’t ever need each other, because we do. We need our friends, family, and co-workers to listen to and encourage us from time to time. It helps to have the encouragement of others, but we have to know that whether or not we receive encouragement from others, we are still responsible for encouraging ourselves.
Encouraging ourselves is vital to pressing towards what God has for us, but in the midst of that, we must also encourage others. It’s our duty to lift each other up. Romans 12:10 tells us, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…” (NASB) In our technologically overloaded world, sometimes it might be difficult to stop typing or texting and look at that person who has just entered the room and is in need of our attention, but we must do it. We must be intentional if we want to honor each other with encouragement.
Here are a few simple ways to encourage others:
Sometimes, as I mentioned earlier, encouragement can come in the form of just listening to the other person without having to jump in with an opinion or a judgment. (A listening ear (a.k.a) an encouraging ear)
A handwritten note or card
A cup of coffee or tea
A thoughtful email or text
Give them an inspirational book
Stop typing, texting or television watching and look a person in the eye when they speak.
Simply words of encouragement
There are so many ways to encourage others that there should never be a lack of encouragement from person to person. We just have to take the time to do it. If you’ve ever had a day when you needed encouragement and were met with the opposite, I'm sure you understand exactly why it’s just as important to give it as it is to get it. The next time someone comes to you with something they’d like to share, give them your full attention, and lend them an encouraging ear. I’m sure they will appreciate it.
Be encouraged and be blessed!