Growing up hockey was my sport of choice. As a teenager I was an average player with a desire to get better. During a practice I vividly remember running a play that I struggled with. After the play the head coach skated over to me and said “Braland, you have got this, you can make the play, I know you can.” We ran the play again and this time I stepped up and did what needed to be done. Little did I know but his words of encouragement helped me to overcome many obstacles throughout my life booth on the hockey rink and beyond.
Encouragement is the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. It can motivate and persuade a person to do something or continue to do something. Encouragement matters. People need to be reminded that they are headed in the right direction, that they are making progress, that they can overcome obstacles, and that God is at work in and around them even when the work is hard. Encouragement is a skill that can be leveraged by anyone to help others reach their full potential.
Here are four practical tips to help you bring out the best in others for the glory of God.
1. Be specific. Acknowledge and celebrate a real action, attitude, our outcome. Don’t be generic or vague about the situation, it’s like getting a letter from your insurance salesperson that says “Thanks for your business.” It means nothing. You must be crystal clear about why you are encouraging them. Here are a few examples:
“By calling that person you helped them to see that they matter. Great job.”
“You made everything run smooth today, we could not have done it without you.”
“Keep going, take one more step, you are so close to the finish line.”
“The way you handled that situation reveals how much you care for them as a person.”
The more specific the better. One specific encouraging note or word can flow into other areas of a person’s life filling in cracks that you didn’t even know were there.
2. Be genuine. Fake encouragement smells like fake flowers so don’t serve up a big dish of fake. Be emotionally engaged in your comments, let them flow from your heart whether they are written or spoken. When you encourage someone, your body language speaks louder than your words so when you share with someone look them in the eye and put a smile on your face.
3. Be timely. Encourage people as soon as possible so that whatever it is you are encouraging them about is fresh on their mind. Encouragement loses its impact when you say it too late. When a person is running a race and closing in on the finish line, they need encouragement before they get to the line, not a week after the race.
4. Be generous. Don’t withhold encouragement from those who need it. Encourage others without being jealous of them and encourage often. Great encouragers don’t see the other person as competition, they see them as a team mate. Teams that encourage one another will always bring out the best in one another.
One of my favorite biblical examples of encouragement comes from the relationship between Paul and Timothy. According to Acts 16:1-3, Paul met Timothy while he was traveling through Lystra. Paul discovered that Timothy was the son of a believing Jewess and a Greek father and that people spoke highly of him. Paul valued character and saw Timothy’s potential. Acts 16:3 informs us that “Paul wanted to take him [Timothy] along on the journey.” This was the moment when the loving mentor relationship between Paul and Timothy began.
Think of two people that you can encourage today. How can you encourage them in a specific, genuine, timely, and generous way? How can you be more consistently encouraging with your leaders? Encouragement brings out the best in others, so learn to be an encourager.