“Encouragement is oxygen to the soul” (George Matthew Adams).

WHO COULD SURVIVE WITHOUT SOME ENCOURAGEMENT? Not many of us, probably. There may be the hermit here and there who’s so self-motivated that the encouragement of other human beings is not needed, but most of us mortals need to know, at least now and then, that somebody sees something in us that’s worth affirming, supporting, and nurturing. The soul needs its own “oxygen.”

When we look back, most of us can see periods of remarkable growth in our lives that resulted from someone’s encouragement. That being true, you’d think we’d offer this gift to other people every time we had the opportunity. Unfortunately, when encouragement is called for, we often substitute criticism, as if that were the primary stimulant of growth. It’s a fact that constructive criticism is sometimes the thing that’s needed, and the friend who won’t tell us the truth when we need to hear it, is not really our friend. But we often get the proportion wrong. Our encouragement of others ought to outweigh our criticism by at least five-to-one. For every thing that needs to be dis-couraged, we ought to look for four or five things that can be truly en-couraged. “Correction does much, but encouragement does more” (Goethe).

Someone has said that “the small change of human happiness lies in the unexpected friendly word.” I have a hunch that the “unexpected friendly word” might be a more powerful boost to our happiness than all the planned and premeditated encouragement in the world. Who among us hasn’t had a bad day transformed by someone’s casual good word, completely unexpected and therefore all the more encouraging?

Encouragement is an act of hope, an investment in the future. To encourage someone is to make a statement concerning their potential; it says, “I believe in what you can be.” Encouragement plants seeds that can grow and bear fruit. When we encourage, we keep hope alive.

When we see what other people need, we’re often struck by a sense of helplessness. Much of the time, what is needed consists of things we can’t provide. But encouragement is something we can always provide. It’s the most doable thing in the world. It doesn’t take genius and it doesn’t take wealth. It only takes a caring heart.

“Let us therefore animate and encourage one another” (George Washington).

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

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