Once upon a time, I was part of a fun little group called an encouragement team. It was a college thing and I’d just begun to love Jesus and I needed to receive the encouragement as much as I needed to give it. We wrote notes on fun paper with stickers and prayed for people and did generally uplifting things for others. It was awesome.
And for some reason, after college, I stopped doing that.
Have you ever noticed how lacking the world is in encouragers? We have cynics and critics and discouragers aplenty, but where are the encouragers? <Click to tweet that>
I will confess that I have dropped the ball, mainly because I have felt so discouraged myself and it’s hard to encourage when your own tank is empty.
Still, it’s part of how God made me. I love receiving encouragement and I love giving it and sometimes I fail at both. Lately, though, it’s resurfacing. And I’m excited.
Maybe you’ve seen me posting this week about (in)courage, an online community of women supporting and encouraging one another. One way is through community groups. (They start Monday! Have you found one yet? Details here.) The groups are designed to connect women with similar interests or in similar stages of life through social media to offer support and encouragement to each other.
This session, I’m leading one, and I couldn’t be more excited because encouraging is fun! Especially when you get hooked up with some cool products, like these notecards from Dayspring. (You might be an encourager if you geek out over stationery and stickers.)
The ladies at (in)courage say encouragement is a superpower, and I would have to agree. But it isn’t the kind of superpower bestowed on only a select few (though it does seem to come naturally to some people more than others); it’s the kind of superpower we all can flex, and the more we use it, the stronger it gets.
If encouraging others intimidates or overwhelms you, can I offer some tips? Here are five steps to become an encourager, even if you don’t think of yourself as one:
- Assume everyone needs encouragement. I’ve had some experiences lately where I’ve given encouragement to people I thought had no need of it, but I wanted them to know how much I appreciated them. Turns out, even people who seem like they’re confident and living out God’s calling need encouragement too! Everyone needs encouragement in some way or another. If you know even one person, you know someone who needs encouragement.
- Notice people. I know, it sounds a little creepy, but it’s basically how I spend my life. I’m watching people all the time, and people will tell you a lot without ever saying a word. Chances are if you start looking around, you’ll find someone who needs encouragement. Maybe it’s the person standing alone in a room full of people. Maybe it’s a child who acts tough but is really sad on the inside. Sometimes the people who need encouragement are the ones we can easily overlook. Start looking.
- Do one easy thing now. Texts and Facebook messages are easy for me. I can send off an encouragement text or Facebook post in a matter of seconds. Sometimes, that’s all the time I have. Sometimes, it’s what I can do immediately. But I find that when I sense a need for encouragement, acting sooner rather than later is important. Because I get busy and forget. And then the easy thing becomes harder and harder.
- Do one hard thing later. Writing letters and notes to people is harder because it takes more time and costs a stamp and then I have to walk it out to the mailbox and plan ahead if it’s for a birthday (I’m terrible at this). Talking to people in person–even harder. But I don’t have the address for everyone in the world, nor do I always know the name of the person I’m encouraging (although I’m trying more and more to learn names, especially of those people who serve others in some way). So, maybe I write a note once a week to someone just because (we all love mail, right?). Or maybe I get over my introverted nature and tell the woman cleaning the play area at Chick-fil-a that I appreciate her work. Or maybe I do like my friend Carol and hand out restaurant gift cards to the garbage collectors at Christmas because Lord knows that is a job we underappreciate but couldn’t live without.
- Equip yourself. I’m much more likely to encourage if I feel prepared. I have an awesome stash of cards and postcards right now, and I can’t wait to send them! But you don’t have to be equipped with stuff. Equip yourself with words. Practice saying “thank you” or “I appreciate you” or “Gosh, this job might seem lame but you are doing good work!” Pack a little extra tip money the next time you go out to eat. Listen to other people encourage each other and learn from them. It’s not hard, but it does take work sometimes.
Repeat the steps as necessary. I’m rediscovering that the more I encourage the more I want to encourage. And each little step in the direction of encouragement makes my burdens feel a little lighter.
Tell me, what are you experiences with encouragement? Do you dread it? Love it? Never thought about it? When do you feel most encouraged?
I’m linking up with (in)courage today to talk about The Power of Encouragement. Have a blog? Join us with your thoughts. And link up here.