Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Power of Encouragement

Way to go!
I trust you.
You are a great friend.
I appreciate your being there for me.
That was amazing. How did you do that?*

Who doesn’t love to hear encouragement like that? Words like these are like vitamins to the soul, boosting our confidence and nourishing our self-esteem.

Interestingly, years ago the human resources department of a major corporation conducted a study and found that it took nine positive comments to counteract the effect of one negative comment in the workplace. Similarly, psychologists say the same is true in our relationships with family and friends.
Just imagine! When your boss criticizes your performance, it will take nine positive comments to offset it. And when we put down our spouse or children, they will need to hear nine encouraging comments to counteract its effects.
The bottom line is this: we need to give as much encouragement to others as is humanly possible. Maybe that’s why the writer of Hebrews said:

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)
Encouragement is important because sin – both our own and others’ - causes us to have a false view of God and ourselves. Thanks to our dark side, we can fall victim to believing all kinds of that God doesn’t love us as much as He loves others, or that following our own plan is better than trusting God. My husband, Rob, said it best: we tend to be a lousy source of truth for ourselves.

Of course, it doesn’t help that we have the father of lies, the devil himself, telling us all sorts of garbage. Indeed, ever since Eve held that shiny apple in her hand, the devil has been whispering in the ears of God’s people, “Did God really say?…” planting seeds of doubt that still bear the fruit of death in us today.

So we really, really need each other to come along and with words of encouragement inject some truth into our lives, cheering us on and reminding us that God is good and that we have value and purpose. We need the voices of encouragement from others to drown out those whispering devils on our shoulders.

The importance of encouragement was underscored in dramatic fashion for me this week when I attended an event dedicated to raising awareness of domestic violence. For the event, survivors of domestic abuse had made t-shirts, each with their own message about what they had endured. One woman’s message jumped out at me because it had to do with the power of words:

“Not all wounds are visible. It is easy to identify physical abuse by bruises and broken bones – the wounds of emotional abuse are not seen. Many survivors report that emotional abuse is more painful than physical, because hurtful words can be replayed over and over in one’s head.” 
Our words can wound or they can heal. They can bring death or speak life. They can be discouraging or encouraging.

Who do you need to encourage today?

 *adapted from "Encouraging Words for a Friend,"