My daughter’s face glows with pride as she walks back from putting her toys away. “Monica, you are doing so well remembering how to put away your toys!” Her beaming face reminds me again of an essential truth about human nature: no matter what our age, we all benefit from encouraging words and compliments.
Indeed, these words speak to our heart of hearts which tells us that we are called to be more than what we think we are. As Stephen Covey writes in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,
“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can be and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”
Don’t we all find this to be true? We receive strength through the joy and encouragement of fellow human persons. We find that we can be happier, holier and more generous than we thought we could be.
1. Untapped Potential
Sometimes I marvel at the power we hold within our words and actions. What untapped potential there is in every human heart to conquer pride and attain holiness! There is no conquest or undertaking to be found where encouragement does not cause the best results.
The word “en-courage,” when broken down, literally means to infuse courage into another. To “dis-courage” is to take away courage from another.
Whether we are training for an athletic feat, beginning a healthy new diet, pursuing scholarly studies, or implementing a daily prayer regime, we recognize that we need and depend on the encouragement and approval of others. We would never be able to persevere if we did not have people close to us in life who believe in us and verbally compliment us on our successes.
Do we do this for others?
How often do we forget about the great power we hold within our words?
2. In the Early Church
The letters of the early Church are filled with admonitions to encourage fellow Christians. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, we read that as Christians, we should be mutually encouraged in our faith: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Rom 1:11-12)
Likewise, the following verses from Acts provide many examples of the early apostles providing and advising encouragement within Christian communities: “When he [Barnabas] arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” (Acts 11:23)…..”
Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.” (Acts 15:32)…..”
After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them.” Clearly, St. Paul and the Church Fathers realized how crucial was the call to verbally encourage one another in faith.
They understood that the power of the devil lies in his cunning deceit which tempts us to discouragement and despair. Once he convinces us that we are not capable of holiness, he has won half of the battle.
3. Connected Camaraderie
We are called to spiritually encourage our friends and neighbors through this journey of life. Have you ever noticed that the most popular online articles and posts are often those which offer encouragement, or provide a feeling of camaraderie amongst its readers?
In the many varied vocations in life, each of us yearns to know that we are not alone, that others feel what we feel, and struggle like we struggle.
It uplifts our souls and strengthens our faith to know that we are walking this road with another. The temptation to isolation is another one of the devil’s subtle snares. When we start feeling alone, unloved and unappreciated, everything in our life suffers. We must work to find value in what we do, and joy in the accomplishment of it.
Here is where we can truly give one another a great gift, by helping each other to recognize his or her intrinsic goodness, and to open each other’s eyes to see the unique beauty of our lives.
4. Start Today
Growing up, if my sister complimented me on something as simple as my new shirt, I found that I was in a more optimistic mood afterwards. Realizing how her kind words had uplifted my spirits and caused me to recognize that it was indeed a nice shirt, and looked good on me, caused me to reflect on my own actions.
How often this week or month have I made a conscious effort to recognize something good about my spouse, my children, my friends, or any neighbor with whom I come in contact? Have I helped others to see and appreciate beauty in their own lives?
As a stay at home mother, I am tempted on many fronts to discredit the work that I do. The world may not place value on my vocation, or my vision may be clouded by my own vanities or insecurities, which causes me to second guess my work.
In these moments, I am thankful to every faithful friend, family member, mentor, or fellow Christian believer, who inspires and motivates me to continue on the path of faithful perseverance.
May we always work to help another pursue holiness in whatever state that we are called to be.