Knowing the basics of encouragement allows you to set a firm foundation for living your encouraged life. Encouragement defeats the darkness and creates the way for hope to take root.
With encouragement, you can.
Without encouragement, it all becomes a struggle.
I’ve always been an encourager. I often joke about how when I was born, I popped out of the womb, slapped the doctor on the rear, and told him he had done an excellent job. I may not have started that early, but it wasn’t far from that.
I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t actively invested in encouraging others.
If I’m not coming from a place of encouragement then I know I need to do some weeding in my life – because that’s one of the ways I see negatives . . . they are weeds invading my flower garden (or my vegetable garden). When I miss the mark for encouragement, I know I have allowed the negatives to take root either from what I’ve been reading, watching, hearing, or sometimes who I’ve been around.
How the negatives invaded isn’t as important as digging them up and getting them out (although, it’s also a good idea to become aware of how the negatives are getting in so you can patch your walls and protect the future).
What matters most is securing your foundation of encouragement and you do that when you understand and live out the basics of encouragement.
We need encouragement to get going, get doing, and get more for our journey. Living encouraged means infusing your heart, mind, and body with the courage needed to walk out your unique and purposeful life.
Missing the Basics of Encouragement
A couple of weeks back, I shared a broken moment where I completely fell apart. I had opened the floodgate of despair, and it just about drowned me in its darkness. I knew I was there, deep in the pit, but I couldn’t find the strength (or the desire) to find my way out. I knew I needed to get out, but I didn’t have the energy to find the exit. I knew what it would take and that hope would be required (and could be found), but I just couldn’t find any path for growing hope.
I had been sucked in and couldn’t find my pull my way out.
It reminds me of a time after we first purchased our property when we were attempting to clear out beaver dams. Apparently, before we made our purchase a quarter of a century ago, the beavers had been allowed free rein. They took advantage of that freedom and built dams that were measured by feet – both in width and height. The backed-up water covered the corner of the property we wanted to use for our driveway, which mean we needed to clear it out.
But, because of all the water and the sand that washed down from the mountain, the ground was soft and silty. Large equipment couldn’t come yet, so we had to wear chest waders and tackle the dams by hand – well, we used shovels and rakes.
The silty bottom also liked to attach itself to the boots of our waders. It became particularly troubling for me because the waders I used were just a bit too big and I had to wear shoes. If the silty bottom attached itself to the boot of my wader and I pulled wrong, I’d pull my foot out of my shoe and then be stuck standing in the silt on one foot with no way to get the other boot out of the silt.
I had learned how to balance well, how to use the shovel or rake to help me stay standing while I wiggled the stuck boot around, and focusing on moving a little bit at a time. But there were still those times when I couldn’t break free. I thought I’d have to abandon the waders and brave the freezing waters.
That’s where I was in that broken time. I was standing on one foot, stuck in the silt, and forced to consider abandoning everything.
But much like those moments in the silty bottom, my broken moment wasn’t as bad as the crushing despair made it feel. When I went back to focusing on the little bits, and I reached out to others (my husband was always with me when we were clearing beaver dams), then I eventually got free.
A life outside of encouragement is stuck, broken, sucked down, and drained.
A life INcouraged is resting firmly IN courage – it can, it will, and it knows it should so it does.
Encouragement is the biggest difference between surviving and thriving.
And we are designed to thrive.
Learn the Basics of Encouragement:
- Understanding what encouragement is.
- Understanding how encouragement works.
- Understanding why encouragement matters.
- Using your understanding to help and support.
- Building an encouragement foundation.
Living encouraged begins by understanding encouragement. You have to know the what of encouragement.
It’s all in the word.
ENCOURAGEMENT, broken down, simply means to instill courage. You are literally pouring courage into the heart, mind, and body.
First, Understand WHAT Encouragement Is
Encouragement isn’t complicated. You pour courage – through hope, faith, light, laughter, warmth, caring, love, helping, and joy (just to name a few). These little bits of investment add up to the fire-fueling daring that makes it possible to jump in the joyful moments and to stand strong through the storms.
To break it down even more, look at the word EN. It’s derived from in or into. When you add EN to a word, it expands the word to mean put into, cause to be, or to make it into.
That’s a lot of energy you add with two little letters.
Now the second part of encourage is courage. – which comes from a word meaning the heart, the seat of emotions, the spirit, temperament, or state of mind. It has been used to denote bravery, zeal, and strength.
When you put the two together, you are putting into, casting to be, and making into the strength, state of mind, and bravery needed to move.
You break the stuck moments.
Encouragement is the most powerful and life-changing gift you can give to yourself or to others – and it doesn’t cost anything to do. As a matter of fact, giving encouragement produces encouragement. You’ll gain more than you give. It’s self-perpetuating. The more you share encouragement the more you grow encouragement.
Encouragement grows – it grows more encouragement and it grows possibility space.
Second, Understand HOW Encouragement Works
Encouragement serves as a booster shot – to give you an energy boost, or a courage boost, or a daring boost, or whatever boost you need in the moment.
I ran track in high school. For most of the long distance race, I was alone with my thoughts. I’d focus on the sound of my shoes hitting the track and the sound of my breathing. The sounds helped me keep going.
Each time I came around the track, my coach and team would be there to shout out motivation or to provide split times. Those words would help me adjust if necessary so that I could stay on track (so to speak).
But that last lap, everything would change. The crowd would get involved. The cheers would be louder and would infuse my heart with a want to do more, my mind with the courage to win, and my body with much-needed energy. The cheers would make it possible for me to dig down and find what I needed to be stronger, faster, and run further.
That’s how encouragement works. It cheers you on when you have a long race. It boosts you in those moments when you want to sit down on the track (or maybe go home). It fires up the fresh desire to rocket you to the end. It feeds your momentum so you can kick up your pace a notch for the final stretch.
Whether you’re running an actual race or just trying to muster the fortitude to deal with the holiday dishes, encouragement is how we get more done.
Encouragement also bridges the gap between life and death – literally in some cases.
Third, Understand WHY Encouragement Matters
Back in the 13th Century, some French leader wanted to prove what language a person would grow up to speak if that person never heard words. So he ordered infants be taken from their mothers and given to nurses. The nurses only provide basic care – no holding, loving, and definitely no talking (even where the infants might here them talking).
The experiment ended early because the infants started dying.
Touch is one of the basics of encouragement.
Love is one of the basics of encouragement.
Words are one of the basics of encouragment.
The basics of encouragement can quite literally save someone’s life. It’s part of the reason encouragement matters so much. It’s the very essence of being.
But encouragement also matters because it produces what’s needed to get more done – and which of us doesn’t need to get more done?
When we are encouraged, we dare to do more. We dare to try more. We dare to share more. We dare to get more done.
And you know what? When we’re encouraged, we usually do!
Encouragement provides the gravitational pull to be able to come along beside someone and help or support (or bother) right where the person is in the moment. It doesn’t seek to change or adjust, it just comes beside and offers an opportunity for rest.
Fourth, Encouragement Produces Help and Support
Many years ago, I was swimming across the lake. A friend had decided to join me. I swam every day. She didn’t. Halfway across, she was too tired to swim anymore.
You can’t stop swimming in the middle of the lake. It’s just not an option.
But she did.
I came along beside her and encouraged her to lay bad and rest. I offered my arm and helped her keep afloat. Eventually, we were able to work out a plan to get her back to the starting point.
Now I could have stayed an arm’s length away and told her what she needed to do. I could have left her and gone for help. I could have done a lot of things, but coming along beside her not only helped her, but it comforted her as well.
When you’re out in the middle of the lake along, your imagination begins to come up with all sorts of ideas – about what lies beneath, about what could be, about what if.
The people we encounter each day are often swimming across their life lakes. Some have been swimming daily. Some jumped in and thought, “I’ll do this today.” But when they get stuck, they all need someone to come along beside them and offer support, help, and comfort.
Have you ever had someone call to relive something going wrong in their lives? Maybe it happened to them. Maybe they made wrong choices. Maybe it’s not as bad as they think it is (at least in your experience).
The truth is that the reason behind the hurt doesn’t matter when you’re hurting.
Your job as an encourager is to help and support. Although the process will be different at different times and for different people, the fundamentals remain the same.
- Remember we are all on a unique journey so help and support will look uniquely different for each of us.
- Listen to the specific needs and then see how you can address those needs.
- Do something – encouragement is more than words (although your words do matter).
What you do to create encouragement makes a difference, but what you don’t do can be just as important.
- Don’t tell me what’s wrong.
- Don’t tell me who had it worse.
- Don’t tell me what you felt.
- Don’t tell me how to fix it.
- Don’t be cliched.
- Don’t be robotic.
When you understand encouragement then you recognize it comes from an authentic and genuine place of caring. And when you send out encouragement from that place of heart then you are positioned to touch a heart.
When you are genuinely caring and pouring out that caring from your heart then you will find unique ways to help and support with your encouragement.
Encouragement needs to be shared. Otherwise, it withers on the vine without providing any delight or nourishment. In order to be an encouragement, you need a foundation of encouragement on which to stand. Encouragement doesn’t come from our own strength but from a solid place of joy, light, and hope.
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Finally, Build an Encouragement Foundation
Last year, we watch as guests in the neighboring vocational rentals set off fireworks. We started on the front porch, but soon realized it would be safer from inside.
Although the vacationers had purchased fireworks from local stores, few had a plan for their launching. Some stuck the fireworks directly in the soft ground. Others propped them in empty bottles. On more than one occasion, we watched the launch holder fall over and fireworks shoot into the crowd.
It wasn’t the fireworks. Most of the time it wasn’t the shooter. Almost always, it was the lack of foundation for the launching. The vacationers hadn’t thought through a plan for using the fireworks they purchased. The makeshift platforms they had utilized were lacking at best and dangerous at worst.
Eventually, the shooters thinned out enough that my husband and son were able to take their turn.
First, they found a level spot.
Then, they set out a full piece of plywood.
Finally, they placed a bucket full of sand n the middle of the plywood.
When it came time to set out the fireworks, they’d anchor them in the bucket of sand. Without fail, every firework they set off went in the direction desired.
Have you ever considered how similar words and fireworks are? Both can be fun to use or dangerous. Both can put on a display that is beautiful or terrifying.
Words, when they explode in the wrong direction or at the wrong moment, can cause harm.
Words, when they are launched from a faulty foundation, can take off at the wrong angle and land in the wrong location.
Words, when they explode out of place, can light a flame that burns down the building.
But when words are launched with focused control, from a solid foundation, they can be beautiful to see and inspiring to the heart.
You need a firm foundation to launch your words of encouragement and to stand in your personal encouragement. Find your solid and level-building place. Set down a platform. Create your encouragement launching point.
Encouragement is one of the most powerful forces on earth. Encouragement holds life or death, possibility or pitfall, hope or hurt. When you wield your encouragement with intention and heart then you begin to change the world.
Looking for more encouragement?
Practical Proverbs pulls encouragement tips directly from the Book of Proverbs.