Lifting up others
by Dr. Dave Currie
‘To encourage’ by definition means to give support, to foster confidence and to bring hope. The breadth of its current usage in our culture means that to encourage equally means to inspire, to uplift, to stimulate, to spur on, to validate, to affirm, to hearten, to motivate, to back, to strengthen, to enrich, to make strong and to build up. Pick whatever meaning you prefer but the intent of the word is clear – to lift up the other person.
A Biblical mandate
The Biblical Mandate is undeniably clear when it comes to encouragement. Here are a few of the more direct admonitions calling us to affirm others – to lift them up.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11)
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor. 13:11)
“[Do] not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25).
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess. 2:11-12)
The phrase “easier said than done” is a truly accurate description of the journey toward being an encourager for most of us. What we know to be true and what we do are two different things. I have had to work on being an encouragement for a long time. This is incredibly hard to live out. Looking back over the years, I see that by nature, I find it far easier to be critical and judgemental. Join me in trying to live out a life of encouragement.
I am going to open up my private world by telling you a few of the core operating principles that guide me day-to-day toward being more of an encourager. God’s call is clear. Let’s get to it. Here’s what I try to do.
Speak up to encourage daily: Intentions don’t bless anyone. Rather, to be an encourager, you have to be intentional. Move from that good, well-meaning thought in your mind regarding what you appreciate about someone, to a step of real affirmation. Verbalize your endorsement. Speak your appreciation. Enter their space, whether it’s in person or digitally, to speak out your word of encouragement.
Try these phrases on for size – “I really appreciate this about you.” or “I notice this and respect this in you.” or “I value the contribution you made here and want you to know that.” SAY IT. SAY IT. SAY IT. Don’t say to yourself that it would be good if someone encouraged them – YOU DO IT! Make the words come out of your heart and mind in whatever format you want to build the other person up. Call them, text them, greet them, write a note, do a Facebook post, send a private message, talk face-to-face, send a card or letter, share it in front of others – whatever. Simply be sincere, specific and succinct with the goal of giving affirmation.
Here’s your mission, should you decide to accept it: Try to encourage three people each day – every day. But take it to the next level. Challenge a friend to join you in the three affirmations/day goal and check with each other weekly to see if you hit the target of 21 encouragements per week. My long-time accountability partner and I did this for 18 months to really turn our semi-encouraging life around. I remember it being 9:30 at night some days realizing that the day had gotten away from me and I still needed to encourage two more people. I can always think of someone else to build up. Try it.
Cast No Slur: Some years back while I was a pastor at Northview Church in Abbotsford, BC, I preached on Psalm 15 – what I call “the Integrity Psalm”. One of the challenges I was seeing in this passage was the call to never speak poorly about others – never – ever! In Psalm 15:3, we see that the person of integrity has “no slander on his tongue and casts no slur on his fellowman.” The part that caught me was “cast no slur…”
The mental picture that helped me visualize what God didn’t want me to do took me back to the day of dot matrix printers. Let me help some of you out who have no idea what I am talking about. Notoriously, with this early version of cheaper, personal printers, you would be wise to wait for 10-15 seconds after printing to let the ink dry on the page before trying to use it. It you didn’t, you would risk smudging it. Any impatience caused a smear that would necessitate a reprint. Aaaaargh!
Point…cast no slur means don’t ever smudge another person’s reputation or smear their image by anything you say, period.
My mother taught me very clearly about not speaking poorly of people with, “Would you like that said about you even if it were true?” Break the habit of living to point out the faults in others. It is so not easy. The human nature (mine at least) tends to focus on people’s shortcomings – their obvious failings. And the destructive negative fixation in some is worse that the feeding frenzy of a piranha in the Amazon River. STOP IT.
You heard me say it’s not easy but that’s no excuse. In preparation for my original preaching of the message, I tried to make it through the week without slighting, smudging, smearing or slurring any person. The best I could do was four days in a row without some negative overtone about someone else. Yikes.
I know. I know. “Pastor Dave – Dr. Dave – what is your problem!” James was right on how hard it is to “tame the tongue” (James 3). You ask God to help you tame yours and I will work with Him on roping in mine.
Practice Good Gossip: I have made the 24-hour rule my mandate for nearly 20 years. If I comment positively about someone to anyone, I have 24 hours to tell the person directly what I said positively about him or her. It’s usually a call or a text but could be a short comment if you see them in person. To simplify – why speak highly about Bill to Ted and never tell Bill what you appreciate about him? Start the good gossip cycle today in your world. Practice Good Gossip.
Utilize Whisper Hugs: The most recent addition in my intentionality protocol of being more encouraging is what I have come to call “whisper hugs”. Most common when saying good-bye to people and giving them a caring, farewell embrace, usually only 2-3 seconds, I whisper a sincere one-liner of affirmation into their ear. You know for a moment in that hug, your head is beside their head, your lips beside their ear. Use this moment to speak truth, hope and affirmation into the life of the one you embrace. You will be amazed how it seems to go right to their soul. Only they hear it but boy, do they seem to really receive it. It’s from your heart into theirs.
Do you spend your days lifting people up or tearing people down? Take steps today to be an encourager. What a difference God wants to make through your life. I’d love to hear what you are doing to be more intentional about “Lifting Up Others.” Send your comments to our website at www.DoingFamilyRight.com.