Let me tell you about three of the times I have felt most encouraged in my whole life:
1) After the church service where I was made a vicar, my Dad came up to me afterwards, gave me a hug and said ‘me and your mum feel really proud of you, you know?’
2) On the day I got married, when I saw Erin my wife walking down the aisle, knowing that this person actually wanted to share their whole life with me.
3) When I was a teenager, at church, the minister said ‘share some encouragement with someone,’ and a guy called Lee told me that they saw me as a leader. I didn’t see myself as much of a leader then, but it gave me the confidence to step becoming a leader in the church, as I am now.
These are, I think, examples of three of the most basic encouragements that we can ever give each other. They are: 1) you make me feel good 2) I want to spend time with you 3) I see the potential for great good in you. Or, to put it another way, you could say: “I love you,” “I accept you” “I see you as significant.”
These three things: love, acceptance and significance, are some of the most basic needs that we each have. Growing up without any one of them leaves us lacking, and going a long period without any of them will diminish our ability to live life fully.
Did you ever do that experiment in school where you plant a bean, and try to grow it without one of the things it needs: Air, water or light? You soon learn the following: if you put a plant in the dark, it’ll grow tall, but it won’t get green, and it’ll fall over. If you don’t water a plant its leaves get all sad and droopy. If you don’t give a plant fresh air it just generally shrivels up and fails to grow. Plants need air, and water, and light to grow properly. In the same way, we human beings need love, acceptance and significance in order to live properly. That’s why I don’t have any time for the idea that you shouldn’t say too many nice things to people or they’ll become arrogant. I think often when people are ‘big headed’ they’ve been told that they’re significant, or capable at doing things, but deep down they don’t feel acceptance: they aren’t confident that people want to spend time around them.
It’s amazing that we can literally put courage into other people using our words - that’s what encouragement is. We can help people to become bigger people; more fully themselves; more alive. That’s the amazing power of encouragement. Who can you encourage today?