Over the course of a year, we hear so many words and receive so much input from the people in our lives. Nice words, mean words, confrontational words, words of encouragement, words of blessing, words of criticism, and occasionally some combination of all these things. We call that one the compliment sandwich (2 sugary compliment buns with a world of pain on the inside).
One of my favorites was from an old man who tried to compliment me after one of my talks at Vinelife. It went something like this…
Old man: “That was a good sermon, young man. The beginning was rough, but you really pulled through.”
Me: “Thanks, old man.” (sigh)
But why does it seem like the words of criticism hold more weight than the words of encouragement? If I hear one hundred nice things in a day, it’s still the one critique or confusing remark that keeps me up at night. This shouldn’t happen, but it does. It’s probably because I’m more insecure than I’d like to admit. I’m guessing that’s the case for you, too.
We see this pay out in other ways. I read recently that if you send an email written with a positive tone, the reader will interpret it as neutral in tone. If you send an email written neutral in tone, the reader will interpret it as negative. This is the very reason there has been an exponential increase in the use of exclamation points and smiley faces in emails and text messages – to the point where it’s just annoying now!!!! We all know, you can’t possibly be that excited or happy about the email you just sent. And you probably didn’t actually “laugh out loud”.
Bottom line is, we’ve been forced to over-communicate what we mean because we gravitate towards thinking people are inherently against us.
If this is our tendency, then we must have ways to re-callibrate our thinking on the days when we’ve convinced ourselves the world is caving in.
With that said, if you find yourself in similar places and are in need of encouragement, here are a few things you can do…
First, remind yourself who you are in Christ, and what He says about you. You’re His son. You’re His daughter. Believe it. Read those Scriptures and pray those prayers. A couple places to start (John 14:27, Galatians 4:6-7, Jeremiah 29:11)
Second, start an encouragement file. In my email I have a special folder called “Encouragement”. I know…it sounds cheesy, but it works! Every time someone emails me something with words that are kind or truthful about who I am or what I’ve done, I store it in this file. Occasionally, on those catastrophic days, I’ll mosey on through the words from people in my life who cared enough to say something. It has helped me a ton! Maybe because words of affirmation are my love language. But mostly because we all need encouragement.
Third, email someone RIGHT NOW, and encourage them deeply. Don’t just say some nice words to make them feel good. Say something that they may not hear often. Or tell them what they mean to you. Affirm their true identity. Somehow, this is edifying to you too. It’s good to give away the very thing you feel like you need.
What else do you do to stay encouraged?