Clergy View: The Lost Art of Encouragement
Have you ever been somewhere and everyone around you was speaking a language you didn’t understand, but then you found someone that could speak your language?
How did you feel when you didn’t understand anyone? How did it feel when you found someone that you understood? You have probably heard the saying, “Now you’re speaking my language.” This was simply a way of saying we have connected.
I read a book some time ago that helped me understand myself better, but more importantly understand others. It is called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.
This book identifies five ways people receive and give love to others. What made it so impactful was that I began to understand myself and others, especially my own family and those that I minister to at the church.
You might be wondering about these love languages? They are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch. They seem pretty straight forward, but what I discovered is that in most people’s top two, It’s Words of Affirmation (Encouragement). It is not surprising. Think about all the messages a person hears each day. How many of those are positive? Not too many.
I will be honest, the highest one for me is Acts of Service, but Words of Affirmation is next in line. So when someone says something to encourage me or it’s even something positive, it takes root in me and makes me feel better. The amazing part about it is the fact when we feel encouraged, we tend to then share that with others around us. Many of you reading this work very hard and have long days. If you work in an environment that has positive and encouraging people, you probably come home in a better mood than those who don’t.
With all the “noise” around us, it can be hard to stay positive and encouraging, but try and remember your words are more powerful than “sticks and stones.” Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It is important to note your words spoken or written to others should be meaningful and not just empty words. My mom told me many times as a child, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then keep your mouth shut.” I really didn’t understand the impact of that until I got much older, but it was very good advice.
The funny thing about words of affirmation/encouragement is nothing new. In the Bible we see God himself encourage his people in Isaiah 40 and 41 telling them He will strengthen and help them. We see Jesus speak love, encouragement and compassion in John 3:16. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up …”
So don’t assume Words of Encouragement is someone else’s gift (Ephesians 4:16). Share that gift and others will see Jesus in you. We all need some encouragement.
Dave Bostrom is pastor of Missions and Local Outreach at Lakewood Evangelical Free Church.