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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A bi-weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren


An Encouraging New Year
Column for the weeks of January 1-15, 2006

When our church gave us a gift of appreciation for Pastor’s Appreciation Day my husband and I were pleasantly surprised. Afterwards, a church member hugged me and said, “Thank you for loving us!”

How encouraging that was to me! I was so encouraged by his statement I decided to make giving the gift of encouragement to others my new year’s resolution. I’m hoping it will be easier than losing weight.

We live in an ultra busy, rat race society. Giving encouragement to others falls way down at the bottom of our to-do list, if it makes the list at all. Yet, God himself is the great encourager (Psalm 10:17, Romans 15:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17) with the Bible being the most encouraging book ever written. God wishes for us to comfort, exhort, and encourage one another as well (I Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11: Hebrews 3:13).

Encouragement as described in Florence Littauer’s book, Silver Boxes, is an unexpected little gift you give to someone, like a box wrapped in silver with a lovely bow on top. Encouragement goes straight to the heart of a person. In fact in Latin “en” means “put into” and “cor” means “the heart.” Put into the heart! I’ve heard it said, “One word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than a 100 words of praise during a success.”

Encouragement is not to be confused with false praise or idle flattery. Not everyone is the greatest, best, or most fantastic person in the whole wide world. False praise can stimulate rivalry or competition, be judgmental, foster selfishness, or give a deceptive sense of evaluation. You are not really all that much better than everyone else, are you? Well, false praise can make you think you are. Encouragement, on the other hand, stimulates cooperation or contribution for the good of all, focuses on effort, makes a person feel accepted, and gives comfort or joy.

Encouragement is not just a spiritual issue anymore. Businesses are instructing their leadership about the fine art of appreciating employees. Why? Because it can:

    1. Form or strengthen positive business and personal relationships
    2. Promote opportunities for further interpersonal collaboration
    3. Encourage or motivate someone to reach even greater accomplishments

Focusing a little more on the spiritual aspects of encouragement, I’ve come up with a few ideas I hope to implement this year. You might find some points helpful as well.

    1. Pray. The more I pray for others, the easier it will be to encourage them. Being an encourager doesn’t come easily so praying for the ability to encourage others is important, too.
    2. Be less critical. Much of the time people are doing the best they can. I don’t want others to be critical of me, so I must be less critical of others. It’s that golden rule thing!
    3. Celebrate. Celebrate others' victories, large and small, with a note, with coffee together, with a special meal, a congratulatory phone call or just a high five!
    4. Say it now. If an encouraging thought comes to mind, share it immediately.
    5. Tell others when they have encouraged me. Someone might not know they have said something in passing that brightened my day.
    6. Comfort the hurting or sick. Just a note saying, “I’m praying for you” can mean a lot.
    7. Show up. If I say I’m going to be there, be there. It can be encouraging to the person who is counting on me.
    8. Write a note of appreciation. Spoken words are great but when people feel down they can take out a written note, read it again, and feel renewed.
    9. Thank others. Just a sincere, simple “Thank you” can go a long way.
    10. Serve cheerfully. Sometimes this can be hard but the Bible admonishes me to serve in love. When I serve others, I reap benefits as well.

Encouragement is a two way street, a win-win scenario as they say in the corporate world. It not only encourages the recipient but the giver as well (Romans 1:11, 12).

We live in a pressure filled society, a dog eat dog world filled with unrealistic expectations. Satan uses this to tear us down, make us feel unimportant and unappreciated, or like we don’t belong. Sometimes we feel like Jesus doesn’t even care even though deep in our hearts we know differently. Encouragers are Christ’s representatives here on earth. Their mission is to “put into the heart” of people the thought that they are appreciated and someone cares.

I was encouraged by the sincerity of the man who said, “Thank you for loving us!” I whispered in his ear a thought I felt deeply. “Thank you for being so lovable.” I hope he found it encouraging!

 

Be sure to visit this page often to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bdahlgren@wcgsouthbay.org.

 

 

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