Real encouragement

I've been working on a talk for a church women's group on the topic of encouragement.   I thought I'd share some of my thinking about this topic with you.  And if you, say, live somewhere warm and would like me to do it in person, feel free to invite me.  I'm cold!

Encouragement is one of those topics that can become a bit ho hum.  Well, maybe that's just me.  When I was in youth group, another girl declared that she had the gift of encouragement.  This was quite annoying because what she thought was encouraging wasn't actually encouraging for me.  Little notes on flowery paper of smultchy blah, blah with a token Bible verse felt empty to me.  Hugs with cries of 'You're the best Jenny!', just irritated me.  Consequently I thought that encouragement wasn't something I either needed or felt I needed to give.  It just seemed dumb to me.

This sort of thing makes me a bit queasy
But I've discovered that it actually is for me and it is for everyone.  What it looks like will be different for everyone.  And it needs to be real and meaningful.  Because a day with no encouragement is a pretty ordinary day.  Going through a day where you only experience negativity and whinging and complaining is very tiring.  A kind word, someone appreciating your efforts can transform your day.

And the question that the Bible asks is, 'what does it look like for me to encourage another Christian?'  and the Bible gives us the reason for encouraging.

What's your take on/experience of good/bad efforts at encouragement?


Fiona said…
Exactly. Real and meaningful, and different for everyone. But also, not just about performance stuff, not just about things you've done. Encouragement can also be for who you are, character-type things. Or validating an experience you've had.

To me, encouragement is giving someone what will help them continue. Which might be: your experience is a hard one, and I'm thankful you're on my team because of the wisdom you have gained, and bring to us. Or: you show amazing patience. I expect there's a lot goes on inside that we don't see, but what we see is amazing.

Maybe your friend was still in the early stages of developing her gift?
Jenny said…
She was about 15 I think, but I suspect that we also were very different people. I think your point about helping someone continue on is important - because how you do that will look different for each individual.
Meredith said…
Ah, one of my favourite topics. There was a blog post here but as I haven't got around to it...I have heard encouragement talked about, as has been said, giving someone the courage to press on. And I think lots of that just comes down to loving people in their particular situation. Which, as also has been said, means different things to different people. And I have decided the way to best work out what will work out for different people is to apply the five love languages thing. Some are encouraged to press on with words (spoken or written), some by acts of service, some by time given to them or their need, some by a hug and some by a bunch of flowers (to acknowledge their efforts or need).

"And the question that the Bible asks is, 'what does it look like for me to encourage another Christian?' and the Bible gives us the reason for encouraging." I hope there is going to be a follow up blog post, when you have done your talk, with what you have found out about what you have discovered the Bible has to say about these things. Pretty please.
Jenny said…
There's lots more to say Meredith. I'll write more on it soon.
wide eyed said…
I like to be encouraged, and also to encourage others. Good blog post Jenny. Do you feel it?

And also when I was at uni one of my friends used to rub my arm to encourage me, or comfort me. It took a lot of strength not to snatch my arm away, give her a cold withering don't touch my arm look and yell BACK OFF. So I guess we all encourage in different ways and need to be sensitive to it. Want an arm rub?
Karen said…
Great post. Hope there's more on this to come.

Had to giggle at the previous comment since the thought of the arm rub creeps me out a bit too. Generally I'm not much of a toucher or hugger.

But I have discovered over the years, like you and others here have said, that it can be different for each person but also at different times. The kind word, the well-timed note (Meredith is good at those!) or even an encouraging text message when I'm feeling down, have all helped at different times. And I'm even getting better at the hugging thing (I think, sometimes it still feels a bit awkward to me), since I know that others do find it encouraging...
Heather said…
I think that on the whole I am most encouraged by seeing a little into other godly people's lives. I tend to loathe the stuff that is targeted at me. Perhaps it's just an introvert thing that I prefer my encouragement to be indirect?
Sarah said…
I guess we need to ask not only what encouragement is but why we do it. I think encouragement between Christians is to keep pointing each other to Christ and reminding each other of what He has done. That could look different practically. I personally don't feel encouraged by people who tell me how amazing I am - partly because, like you said, there are times when we don't feel amazing because we know our failings. I feel most encouraged when people come alongside me and (gently) share Scripture with me that challenges and refocuses my perspective.

Looking forward to hearing more about this topic.
Sandra said…
One of the things that both encourages and discourages me is when Christians say 'I'll pray for you' - it is profoundly encouraging to know others are interceding on your behalf. I have a friend who is a great prayer warrior and I will message her if I have a big need or concern as I know that she will pray faithfully and regularly for me AND chase me up about how things are going.
However the trite, brush off: 'I'm praying for you' is profoundly discouraging if you really need some physical support and/or TLC and you find out thats about as much love and attention you're going to get. It's not much help being 'prayed' for when you're ill or in need and you are struggline to deal with the basic necessities of day to day living.
Jenny said…
I think that's a very important point Sandra. The 'I'll pray for you' line can often feel meaningless if there is no other expression of concern or love for you. I find that even if someone can't provide the physical TLC you need (especially the case with many of the elderly people I know who are praying for me), a follow up call or conversation about how you going really does show that the person has genuinely heard your need and has most likely been praying for you.

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