Just as God encourages us, he wants us in turn to encourage others.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
- Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
- Philippians 2:1-2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
But to many people it is not easy to encourage others. So how do we do that?
Encouragement can be as simple as an affirming word or as intricate as an unconditional commitment to faithfully journey alongside someone to encourage them to run their race.
OBSTACLES TO ENCOURAGEMENT
Surface Community People make up communities and it is also people who erect protective layers which form barriers to meaningful interaction. People are naturally afraid of rejection and so these protective layers are there to avoid rejection. So when “layered Christians” meet together their purpose is to protect themselves. Layer to layer relationships produce surface community, a relational structure in which people do not really touch one another. No real encouragement can take place in surface community we need to take time to build a relationship. (From Larry Crabb “Encouragement – The Unexpected Power of Building Others Up”)
So how do we encourage others?
Larry Crabb goes on to say, “We do not learn to encourage by memorizing a list of phrases to say. Encouragement is not a technique based on selecting certain words – it is an attitude, a view of others as valuable with a commitment to treat them accordingly.” The essence of encouragement is exposure without rejection, accepting a person whose needs and faults are exposed.
We need to clothe ourselves in characteristics that foster relationships and not hinder them –
Colossians 3:12-15 (TM) So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.
Other ways to encourage.
- Building authentic relationships: Fostering relationships where people feel accepted as they are helps break down the protective walls that sustain surface community.
- Listening: We need to be attentive listeners that are quick to listen and slow to speak. Pat answers and trite quotations say much less than empathetic silence and loving companionship.
- Understanding is better than advice: We often assume a person sharing a problem is really asking for a solution – sometimes they just want you to understand their hurt or frustration. For example a wife complaining to her husband about work tensions is rarely expecting him to come up with alternative employment solutions or coping strategies – she is probably just wanting him to understand and acknowledge her frustrations.
- Words: Although encouragement is more about our attitude than our words that doesn’t mean that words aren’t important. Encouragers need to be responsibly aware of the great potential their words have to heal or destroy. You need to know the power words have and use that force to build up our Christian brothers and sisters.
Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Our role in encouraging is to always be pointing our fellow believers to the strength and sustaining power of God, and not to foster a dependant relationship on the encourager.
Option for further reflection and encouragement