William Ward said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”
Encouragement is not just important, but essential. Encouragement has the potential to produce hope and simultaneously build positive self-image, both of which are necessary to wholesome, healthy lifestyles. And, depending upon which survey you go by, it takes between five and 11 affirming comments to outweigh the negativity of a harsh or critical remark.
Encouragement does not provide us with a license to lie. In other words, we should not just pump people up or make comments that are inaccurate just to make them feel good. Also, we should not become complement addicts needing a constant flow of positive comments. We do not want to become like the little boy who asked his father to play darts with him and said, “I’ll throw the darts and you say ‘Wonderful!’”
Bear Bryant, legendary football coach of yesteryear, developed a good pattern for encouraging his team. To calm down, lift up and produce positive results with his team, he followed a rather selfless, threefold practice. He said, “if anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then they did it!”
The Bible has a great deal to say about encouragement. Hebrews 3:13 says “…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you will be fooled by sin and become too hard to change.”
Several things come into play in this verse. First, it is a command, not a suggestion. Second, encouragement is to be practiced in a “daily” or perennial fashion. Just in case the reader missed the point, the verse goes on to say “encourage…as long as it is called today”. Philosophically speaking, tomorrow never comes, for when we arrive in tomorrow it is today. Hence, encouragement is to become a lifestyle practice for the Christian. Third, encouragement is productive in keeping people from being deceived and defeated.
Criticism tends to happen more naturally than encouragement. This suggests that we need some supernatural help from God to be encouragers; Christian character building 101. Moreover, encouragement is a boomerang virtue; giving it positions us for receiving it. Those who are habitually critical and caustic may be avoided, but an encourager will be sought out for company and counsel.
Acts 4:36 mentions a man named Joseph, who was nicknamed Barnabas. Barnabas means “son of encouragement”. We may never have the nickname, but we can employ the nurture and exhibit the nature of encouragement.
“Kind words are like honey; they are easy to accept and good for your health” (Proverbs 16:24).