Happy weekend, dear gal! Have you resumed your “normal life” after the holidays? Or are you, like me, putting away Christmas decorations today? Other than needing to put away the few decorations I have out, I feel like I’ve eagerly moved into the new year. And honestly, part of the reason I feel ready to face 2020 with courage and strength is because I received so much encouragement this past week from my readers. That’s why I thought we’d talk about the inner beauty of encouragement today.
What does it mean to encourage?
My favorite definition of encouragement is the simplest one: to infuse with courage. I love that definition because it reminds me that encouragement is not just about offering a few kind words or a fist pump. When we encourage someone we fortify them for a hard task, a difficult role or a new challenge. We strengthen them to move on when they’d rather quit.
I love looking out over the nearby Ohio River. It’s peaceful and wide and lovely. But the real beauty of that body of water is that it supplies power for electricity and moves barges and boats from one location to another. In the same way, a woman who helps supply courage, strength and stamina to other people is powerfully beautiful.
Encouragement is similar to its cousin gratitude in that we tend to crave encouragement from others much more than we are prone to give it out. Would you agree? But if we want to cultivate an inner beauty that outshines our aging exteriors, we will become women who freely and frequently encourage others.
Who needs encouragement?
My husband recently asked the people in our church congregation, “Who needs to be encouraged?” James then asked everyone to raise their hands if they were breathing. Of course everyone raised their hands. Every living soul needs encouragement!
Truthfully, every single person you encounter today needs to be infused with courage for something. Your husband, your mother, your son, your friend, your waiter, the ticket taker, the sales clerk, your pastor, your neighbor… First, we need to begin to see everyone we pass as someone who needs a boost, a hand up, a word of courage.
Besides, encouragement is something you never really overdose on. Right? We can never give too much encouragement to someone. Even the woman who looks like she has it all together and is doing splendidly needs a little more encouragement.
How can you and I encourage someone?
Obviously kind and reassuring words can give courage and renewed determination to someone who lacks it. But other times encouragement requires no words at all. We can encourage simply with our presence, with a touch or an embrace.
Here are some ways we could encourage someone this week:
- Show up for her “hard day” e.g., in the courtroom, the funeral home, the waiting room, the hospital.
- Send a note filled with courage infusing words. Try not to write just sweet sentiments, but instead write a note that gives a gentle push in the right direction (without sounding bossy, of course).
- Go with him to do the hard thing e.g., apply for a job, see the doctor, have a test run, confront someone.
- Listen to her vent. Sometimes just fully engaging while someone vents their frustrations is enough to empty them of fear and fill them up again with resolve. Simply say, “I hear you,” when you don’t know what else to say. Feeling heard can fill us with renewed courage.
- Share your story. Be careful here. I have to remember it’s not about me, when I choose to encourage through my own experiences. But sometimes sharing our own personal struggle and how we overcame or endured can encourage someone else to do the same. If I can share in a way that doesn’t make me the hero, but simply the fellow sojourner, my story will resonate more with the one who’s struggling.
- Pray with him. Right then and there. Sure, promises of prayer are somewhat encouraging. But hearing someone voice a petition to God on your behalf fills you with renewed resolve like nothing else.
- Remind her of the gifts and abilities you see in her. Sometimes we just need to know that someone else sees in us the thing we’d begun to doubt that we had. Maybe that thing is intelligence, strength, skill, love, a calling or boldness.
- Recast his vision. If he’s lost his way or begun to doubt his future, you may need to help him re-imagine it. Give some hope and assure him that you still see the light at the end of the tunnel.
- Put the past in perspective. Sometimes we need encouragement to face tomorrow because the past is weighing us down. Whether guilt, grief, regret or loss is pulling her back, you can gently remind her that she has a future. But go easy here. The past’s grip can be strong and we must be patient with one who is hurting from it’s wounds.
Can you think of other ways we can encourage someone this week? More importantly can you think of someone to whom you could offer some real encouragement? You probably have no idea how much your simple words or act of encouragement could mean to him or her.
On Wednesday I shared where I’d be taking Dressed for My Day this next year. I literally woke up that morning feeling nervous and fearful. I knew the post had gone live during the night, and I feared that I was losing subscribers even as I poured my coffee. Instead, I was met with over 35 comments filled with assurance, affirmation and sweet encouragement. Later I even received emails from readers. You have no idea how those words and expressions of affirmation filled me with courage to press on. I’m overwhelmed. And I’m encouraged. (By the way, I did lose a few subscribers from that post. But in the end the encouragement you gave me helped me balance out the losses and move on.)
You are probably already a woman who encourages others. Bless you. Your gentle, kind and persistent encouragement makes you a beautiful woman. Thank you for encouraging me.