By Nicole Unice
BE MORE ENCOURAGING.
Last week I had some disappointing news that sent me sprinting down the path of self-doubt. In response, one of my “wiser” (read: older) friends shared a story of what God taught her through her own disappointment. Another friend left me a quick note: “Continue to be powerful.” Yet another exhorted me with words I’m still thinking about.
Through my disappointment, I felt known and understood. I felt comforted and challenged. I felt the invisible boost of confidence that comes from genuine encouragement.
We know encouragement helps in disappointment, but in the bustle of leadership it’s easy to let words of encouragement slide—until that next crisis. What if in 2011, you treated encouragement as a spiritual practice? The writer of Hebrews says “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (3:13)
Here are three reasons to make encouragement a New Year’s resolution:
Encouragement is our responsibility every day.
The author of Hebrews says to encourage someone not just when we notice they are down, but every day. As leaders, we need to be sure that we take time daily to speak a word of truth and strength over those we influence.
Today is a day to choose.
The word “today” is capitalized in this verse because it refers to a specific time period. The time period called “Today” is the time when people still have a choice to make about following God. “Today” is a day to choose the path of being led by the Spirit, of allowing Christ to be our Lord. “Today” is a day I choose to let God lead and to follow his command to encourage others in their choice to do the same.
Encouragement is the preservative for freshness.
Encouragement is the solution for avoiding both sin’s hardness and its deceitfulness. Does that surprise you like it does me? I would think, based on popular opinion, that listening to sermons or doing the right thing or having my quiet time is what would keep me from sinning. But encouragement? Really?
Encouragement is a preservative for the giver and for the receiver. To provide a fresh word of encouragement requires listening, asking good questions, caring about the answers and making space in the busyness of the day to allow for those thoughts to be spoken.
So, what is the result of encouraging someone else? It’s knowing what it feels like to put our own needs aside and to invite the needs of another to occupy that space. And that’s what Jesus taught us servant leadership is all about.
Today, I’m taking time to reflect on how to be more encouraging in 2011. Ask yourself: Who do you encounter daily who could use encouragement? Mother Teresa once said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
Do it today. Do it tomorrow. And experience the encouragement to your own soul as you truly partner with the Spirit in his work of comfort, counsel and strength in other’s lives.
Nicole Unice, MA is a counselor-turned-ministry leader, blogger, and author of The Divine Pursuit. She discovered her love for encouragement as a high school cheerleader. You can find Nicole blogging at www.thestubbornservant.com