Encouraged relationships set the foundation for changing the world. When you invest in filling others with the courage to dare their possibilities, you’ll make a difference. Not only will you effect their lives and the lives of those they encounter, but spreading courage will grow courage in your life as well.
I’ve shared before about my husband’s shocking commercial break moment of “I don’t like you” that occurred back when we were first married. That moment prompted the publishing of Practical Proverbs and then later the Husband Whisperer.
When my husband told me he didn’t like me sometimes and that sometimes he didn’t even like being around me anymore, it shocked me. It also hurt me. I faced a choice: lash out or lash up. In other words, I had to attack the situation or adjust for the situation.
I made the choice to lean into encouraging the relationship and getting the relationship back to a place where he liked being around me again – and where I liked me again.
Twenty years later, I’m still perfecting that choice but I daily see improvements in the results.
But when I made the intentional choice to be invested in encouragement for my husband and for my family, things changed. I was speaking words of encouragement to him. I began sharing words of encouragement with others about him. I began praying words of encouragement over him and over our marriage.
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It was only a few days later when my husband commented how things had changed for the better. The truth was the only thing that had changed was my intentional investment in encouragement.
Encouragement creates positive change. The more you invest in encouraging the people around you, the stronger you grow the relationships.
It’s not always easy to be an encouragement, especially when dealing with people. People will lie to your face and expect you to accept it as the truth. People will be more focused on their needs than yours and expect you to get in line with their needs. People will annoy you even as you are attempting to build a story of encouragement – sometimes because they CAN annoy you.
You have to be focused on building encouraged relationships so you can get over the hurdles of the people in those relationships.
You stay focused on encouraged relationships when you:
- See the heart – even though the person is lying to your face or hurting your heart, you choose to see beyond that and look at the heart.
- Focus on the positives – even when it’s bad or a storm or the saddest Psalm in the Bible, you can find a positive. You can always break down and find the problems, but you can also choose to build up and find the positives.
- Praise the now – instead of focusing on the past – whether it’s the positives or the negatives of the past – you look to now. Instead of focusing on the potential of tomorrow, you focus on the power of now. Yesterday is unchangeable. Tomorrow is untouchable. Focus on the growth moments in front of you.
- Speak positives – It can be a challenge to only say positive things when you are surrounded by people not doing positive things (or speaking positives as well). But be intentional about speaking encouragement and even when the others aren’t around it will find a way in the heart of those being covered in that encouragement.
- Live encouraged – you show encouragement by living encouragement in your daily life. You will reap what you sow and you sow what you live.
Surrounding yourself with hope in a dark world will give you light. You grow that surrounding by investing in encouraged relationships.
The lady standing in front of me looked like she’d been sucking lemons. You could see she was unhappy and it was so heavy you could almost feel it.
It was hard not to respond to her with what she was giving out.
At the time, I was waitressing and I knew that responding like I’d been sucking lemons would likely send my tip down the drain. I took a deep breath and offered a smile to her lemon-sucking expression. I spoke cheerfully as I served her and embraced the moment like she was the most important person in the world – because right then, as I was working with her, she was.
I found out later that she had recently gotten bad news. She had to struggle through the lunch meeting despite the news. Her pain wasn’t from sucking lemons but from genuine pain.
She made a point of speaking to my manager about my actions. She told him I had made her tough time a little better because of my positive and encouraging attitude. She also left me a generous tip.
- The first thing you need to do when building encouraged relationships is to choose to see the heart.
It isn’t the behavior, or the expression, or the attitudes. We have to choose to see beyond. It doesn’t matter if the relationship is for a lunch meeting or a lifetime of blissful marriage. When we bother to see the heart then we can see past the moment.
I had to meet with someone who sat in a position of authority for our group. This person had started a rumor about one of my children. I was not in a happy place. Even now, thinking about the situation stirs my agitation.
Anger can be a tough emotion to push past. And if you want to ruffle the feathers of a natural-born encourager, then attack her children. I wanted to respond out of the anger.
My husband placed his hand on my knee and his presence calmed me. In the calm, I could see past the anger. Once I saw past the anger, I was able to allow my heart to see the heart of the one that had attacked.
I still didn’t like him, but I saw him from a different place.
When emotions threaten the relationships, seeing the heart with the heart will create a place of calm, and from that calm, you can provide encouragement.
You need encouragement to get through this world – to have, to give, and to get. This world is full of negative nellies, and they demand your attention.
Choosing encouraged relationships will keep you from the traps of the negative nellies.
With all the negatives coming at you, you better have a shield and armor in place to reject those negatives, otherwise, they stick to you and can begin trying to drag you down.
What’s the best armor? The positives. You have to be invested in building an arsenal of positives because the positives are the only tried and true method for keeping the negatives at bay.
- The second thing you need to do when building encouraged relationships is to focus on the positives.
If you ever have the opportunity to sit in on a governmental meeting you’ll learn firsthand what negative nellies do to an environment. If you can avoid these negative-packed situations, then do. If you can’t, then be sure you have a stronghold of positives to back you up.
There are days when I don’t like being around my husband either – although you can’t tell him I said that because that commercial break moment is great for getting my way.
Trust me when I say there are days when he knows I don’t like being around him – and not just because I tell him.
I have come to realize that the days I don’t like to be around him are those times when I am focusing in on the negatives. As soon as I intentionally choose to focus on the positives (and “whew, he finally left” is not the kind of positive I’m talking about) I start enjoying having him around again because I’m seeing the good.
He doesn’t change. My focus changes.
When you choose to focus on the positives not only do you find the positives but you encourage others in the process.
Watch the #GrowingHOPE Episode
If you are struggling with building encouraged relationships, take a moment to make a list of positives.
What do I like about . . .
You’ll feel better for the effort and then you will be positioned to be encouraged and to be encouraging. Once the encouragement starts, it will spread.
There is no time limit on encouragement. You can keep the positives listed and use them time and again. But if you’re struggling with encouragement, make the intentional choice to focus on now.
A struggling heart often gets tangled in discouragement even if it had the best intentions to start. The what-ifs and if-onlys crowd out the chance of possibility thinking.
It can be especially tough when facing people that have hurt you or lied to you in the past (or to someone close to you). How do you find encouragement for someone you don’t trust?
Trust me when I say that can be a goliath-sized obstacle to overcome – and we’re talking the big, bumpy pickle here.
That’s why now has to be the focus.
- The third thing you need to do when building encouraged relationships is praise the present.
What about right now provides you peace, comfort, or joy?
Sitting in that meeting the other night, I struggled. I kept hearing the song about clowns being to the left of me and jokers to the right of me playing in my head.
I won’t tell you where my husband was sitting.
If I had taken a breath and listed the positives around me, those gratitudes could have easily given me the peace and comfort necessary for getting through.
Dealing with people doesn’t have to be more challenging than dealing with stressful meetings, even if it feels like the noise level is greater. No matter where the noise comes from, you have to make the intentional choice to see the positives in the now.
Someone who shall remain nameless at this time hurt me when I was in school. I had to work with her in a church environment. I struggled with the past pain and considered stepping down from my position. Every time I saw her, the pain from that past incident reared its ugly head and blocked my view of anything else.
I made the intentional choice to look for the present positives. When the pain demanded attention, I looked around and saw how welcoming she was to everyone in the group. The pain dropped its head a little.
The lady took the time to address attendees by their names and even asked about their families. She listened with genuine interest to their replies.
With each positive I found, the pain slipped lower. The past hadn’t changed. She hadn’t even miraculously apologized for the hurt she caused.
The only thing to change was my attitude. That shift came from the choices I made to find the positives in the present.
Strong relationships are made right now. Nostalgia from the past can fuel their strengths or they can come in the form of negatives and steal the energy. Thoughts of tomorrow can stir hope, feed heartache, or create distractions. But now is the moment for building encouraged relationships, so praise the present.
And praise the positives out loud – to the person, to other people, and around to those who aren’t even involved.
- The fourth thing you need to do when building encouraged relationships is to speak the positives.
I began meeting with a group of women each week for Bible study. Most of us had young children and the church provided someone to watch them. It was a break for the moms and a chance to engage, interact, and encourage each other.
The commercial break moment from my husband had not faded far. I was still recovering and growing. My husband was definitely nowhere near where he is today. He wasn’t even in the parking lot of that ballpark.
But neither was I.
However, I made the intentional choice to praise him where he was when I was talking with the group. I had accepted that not only could I not change my husband but it wasn’t even my job. Complaining about something you can’t change will only make you and the people around you miserable.
The more I praised him, the more others began telling him about the praise. The word got around even when I wasn’t praising him to his face.
Words travel and they have power wherever they go. Speak positives when building encouraged relationships.
Creating a habit of speaking positives will cover you in a bubble of encouragement. People will see you as encouraged because you’re funneling encouragement and positives in all you do.
A new neighbor stopped me one day when I was out walking laps in the neighborhood. “I visited your website, and I wasn’t sure about you.” She went on to explain. “I didn’t think all the positive on your site could be real.” She laughed. “But then I saw you out walking and then I talked to you and I realized it was sincere. You really are that positive.”
- The final thing you need to do when building encouraged relationships is to live encouraged.
When you live encouraged then it reflects onto the people around you and through the people around you.
My husband recently taught a Sunday School lesson based on Proverbs 88 – which is said to be the saddest psalm in the Bible. He challenged everyone to find one thing positive in that sad psalm.
And you know, if you’re willing to look, those sad psalms can say so much . . .
Sorry. It had to be done.
My husband told me later that I knew the reason he was able to break his habit of negativity and find a positive in the saddest psalm – and to even go a step further and encourage others to find a positive.
I said it was a God thing. But then he added it was because I had been living hope and encouragement all this time.
He began to see the positives because I lived the positives.
When you walk out encouragement, you spread out encouragement. Building encouraged relationships begins with a heart living encouraged.
You thrive in your journey when you are invested in building encouraged relationships.
- See the heart
- Focus on the positives
- Praise the now
- Speak the positives
- Live encouraged
The more encouraged relationships you have in your life and around your life, the bolder you will be in living out your unique design.
Looking for more encouragement?
Practical Proverbs pulls encouragement tips directly from the Book of Proverbs.