“Most of us, swimming against the tides of trouble the world knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise or encouragement – and we will make the goal. “ – Jerome Fleishman
Dear You (For When You Need A Word of Praise):
Encouragement is like a love letter to the heart. It instantly lifts. Immediately upholds the soul both in times of mundane living (when the senses have been dulled) as well as supports in times of acute need, where much more intervention is necessary. Encouragement is the Balm of Gilead- the universal cure for the heart’s pain and hurt. It heals, restores, enables, engages. Encouragement is both a consolation as well as a joy to the heart of the hearer. We crave these words of support as we strive to live and press onward in our ordinary day-to-day living- need them even when life becomes complicated and hard to understand. For what we really need is something to persuade us to just.keep.going. We need encouragement.
How we need them, those words of affirmation and confirmation.
I am standing there in the church kitchen wiping dishes, sorting the cutlery into neat piles. Forks, knives, spoons, serving utensils. Routinely wiping and sorting, wiping and sorting…when he comes to stand beside me, an older gentleman whom I am not ordinarily inclined to chat with. We stand for a moment side by side and then he turns to me and says something I am not expecting. I am actually caught off guard for a moment. He tells me that he reads my blog articles and that in the reading, they have somehow meant something to him; enough so that he feels the need to share this sweet word of encouragement with me in this tender moment. He also shares that he reads my writing quite regularly, which is just so touching I cannot keep from smiling as he talks. I have not expected this at all- was not really aware. Nor did I realize how very much I needed this little bit of nudging and support so as to encourage me and spur me on.
After he leaves, I realize that this private exchange had (between two acquaintances) might seem insignificant to anyone but me. I might have continued to think such if I had not opened my email account later on in the day only to find that I had received a message from someone I know not at all. A person who tells me that they weep even as they write the letter- a stranger to me, yet a person willing to bear their soul; in their hurt and pain, the individual expresses to me how the discouragement they are feeling has wounded their spirit. Has all but pushed the individual to make decisions that would change the course of their career path. And it is as if we know each other intimately, for the details of this story are so similar to mine that I could have written the words of this letter myself.
My heart reaches outward. I just wish I knew what to say so as to help lift this individual from the hurt they feel.
In the moments in which I read the words, recalling back to the moments earlier when I was myself encouraged, I start to wonder if what we all need in life is a maybe a cheerleader assigned individually to each and every one of us. An avid personal enthusiast who ‘likes us, loves us, cares for us’- regardless what happens to act as a roadblock in our day-to-day living. Someone who is there behind us as we go through our lives, quietly supporting our work and living, even if from the sidelines. What we need is a devoted advocate who works tirelessly on our behalf. Someone who is willing to champion our cause, form our fan base, work up our support channels. I know I could certainly stand a fan or two such as I have just described.
For is this not what we need so as to be encouraged- an individual supporter or a group of followers to stand behind us as we walk this life’s road? Is this not the ideal?
Certainly, if you take in social media at all, this aspect of forming a fan base with a multitude of followers would appear to be the way to go; for everywhere you turn, there is the call to show support and public praise. It seems to be the sought-after prize these days. Pages on Facebook asking for ‘likes’ or photos on Instagram asking for hearts. Twitter left looking for ‘faves’. We are a people in need of encouragement, driven to rack up our support systems so that it becomes almost a popularity contest; it seems we are willing to do anything to get votes, even to the point of outright begging for them.
Is this what we all need? A fan base based on likes, hearts or favorites? Do we really need the approval of the crowd so as to find encouragement and sustenance for our journey on life’s rocky terrain? And if so, how would one go about getting the numbers so as to make any difference?
If what we need is a fan base, or at the very minimum- A FAN: how would one go about convincing another person to be that fan for them? Persuading another to selflessly act in ways so as to uplift and encourage on a regular basis, as the need arises? And who would we ask- a father or a mother? A best friend, spouse or partner? And what would happen in their absence? Would a sibling fill in? It seems a monumental task trying to derive a consistent base of support from which to draw from when life’s trials and troubles get us down.
Perhaps rather, what we really need so as to lift us from the slump of life’s ho-hum, everyday living is not so much a fan or fan base but this: to be ourselves the encourager, the one behind-the-scenes following and ‘favoriting’ the work of another: the fan of another person who needs a quiet word of encouragement or a humble nudge of approval. So that the work that person is found to be doing can then be acknowledged in some way; so that the life that person is living can be recognized and known. What we all need as a discouraged people is to be the followers of others in our lives so that the one’s we are quietly supporting from the sidelines are shown that THEY ARE TRULY VALUED. So that the people in our lives are shown that they are worth our time and effort. When we offer praise, isn’t it interesting how the focus of our emotions becomes less about us and more and more about the significant others in our lives? It seems that much of our own discouragement is dissolved just by our decision to be an encouragement to others.
What we truly need so as to be encouraged ourselves is to BE an encouragement to others.
Life can get people down- it’s a tough world out there and a hard place to navigate sometimes. Without people in their lives who truly see them for what they are worth, people can tend to forget the intrinsic value inherent in their being. That’s our job- to remind them. Without people in their lives who care and hold out for the best, people can so easily throw in the towel. That’s our job- to support them. Without people in their lives to offer comfort and solace and cheer when hardships seemingly overpower and overwhelm, people can forget sometimes that there are answers for the predicament that life’s trouble and pain pose. That’s our job- to offer that word of hope.
Because if we truly want to know how best to bring ourselves out of the weariness and discouragement we so often feel as people, the best way to do to this is to be ourselves an encouragement and advocate for others. It’s the antidote to discouragement.
Being that word of encouragement ourselves that others so desperately need is the way to refocus our eyes on what really matters, lifting our hearts in the process.
So to that dear One Who Is Struggling:
Be encouraged. Know that someone out there cares.
Be confident. Know that someone believes in you.
Be inspired. Know that someone stands behind you.
Be hopeful. Know that your life was created for a purpose.
And know with all your heart that I’ll be standing by as your number one supporter.