For the past three weeks my pastor in Florida has been preaching a series on the power of encouragement. Isn’t it amazing how one word of praise, an unexpected note or email, a smile or hug just at the right time can actually be life changing? The dictionary defines encouragement as “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” I love the notion that we can breathe hope into the people around us by simply taking the time to say a kind word or to pause for a few minutes to listen to their story. G. K. Chesterson, an English writer, poet, philosopher, and lay theologian once wrote, “If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God.” Encouragement is one of the powerful tools we have to partner with God to love and serve others.
Yet sadly all too often I am like the frogs in the following story that are yelling down at their friends, “You are as good as dead!”
As a group of frogs traveled through the woods, two of them fell into a deep pit. The other frogs peeked in and told these two that they were as good as dead as it was impossible to come out. Ignoring the discouragement, these two frogs tried to jump out anyway. A while later one of the frogs lost its spirit in the constant discouragement and gave up…and died. The second frog kept on jumping. The more the others commented, the harder he tried. Finally, he jumped out.
“Didn’t you hear us?” asked the frogs. “I am a little deaf. I thought you were cheering me on,” answered the frog.
So the moral of the story? Our words can make a difference between life and death, success and failure. We can criticize and judge and promote death or we can praise and encourage and promote hope. The first is easy, the second is hard. The first seems natural, the second will require us to be proactive. I personally want to be known as a hope giver and not a grumpy old man who groans and complains and criticizes those around me.
For the past couple weeks I have been working at being proactive as an encourager. Here are a few things I have been working on that you too could try.
- Take Thumper’s advice: “If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.”
- If somebody pops into your head who you know needs encouragement call them, write them, or stop what you are doing and hug them! Do it immediately because if you don’t you will forget.
- Be bold and start practicing the art of saying something nice to people who cross your path. Watch the eyes of the checkout lady, your mechanic, your secretary or boss as you say something nice to them. If that is too scary simply look at people in the eyes as you pass by them and smile. You will make them smile. Try it! I dare you!
I hope you will join me in working with God this week to bring one touch of rosy sunset into someone’s life. Please tell me about it!