Friday, January 14, 2011

Encourage You to Encourage Others

Have you ever stopped to really dwell on how important encouragement is? How many of us just hear the word, but never really stop to think about it? How many of us go out of our way to be encouraging to others? For a select few, it just comes naturally. For the rest of us, we need to make it our goal for it to come naturally… someone’s life may depend on it.

When you hear stories of real life change from people who have done amazing things in their lives, there’s always at least one key person that catalyzed that change with encouragement. In many cases, it’s a string of people, who said the right thing at the right time, or simply had an encouraging effect over a sustained time period.

From great leaders, to inventors, to professional athletes, to men and women of faith or anyone else who has achieved far more than the average person, they all have that key common denominator.

I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about how important encouragement is. Other than my best friend, Robert, I really didn’t have an encouraging voice speaking into my life until I met my wife. Sure, I accomplished a fair deal before I met her, but most of it was done in spite of the fact that I didn’t have encouragement. Those achievements were a house of cards I’d built on a foundation of “I’ll show thems!” and “You can’t tell me what I can and can’t achieves!” that was leading me down a road to ruin. Stubbornness, not encouragement, fueled my drive.

By the time I was seventeen I was homeless, addicted to alcohol, cigarettes and fist-fights while leading a life fueled by the notion that since no one cared about me, it was a waste of time to care about myself. And, maybe, just maybe, when I was dead someone would finally care…

Thankfully, God had a plan that didn’t involve a six-foot hole and He brought several people into my life to keep me out of the ground.

Robert’s encouragement managed to pull me back from the brink of self-destruction in my late teens. If it wasn’t for him and his mom, odds are I’d be another body in a cemetery somewhere, a victim of wasted youth.

My wife Angie came along in my late 20s and helped me heal my self-image and see myself not through the eyes of negativity that had underscored my every move since early childhood, but rather through the eyes of love, which speaks the language of encouragement. Angie helped me realize life wasn’t hopeless, I didn’t need to heed the voices from my past that told me I’d never amount to anything and I really could reach for my dreams and achieve them.

We started attending Palm Valley Church in my 30s, where Pastor Greg Rohlinger and his amazing staff spoke words of encouragement to us regularly. Things I’d given up on years earlier once again seemed attainable and harmful things I’d pursued for decades, things that were more self-destructive than I knew, slipped out of my focus like the fading memories of a bad nightmare.

More recently, some very encouraging people at Eagle Brook Church have touched our lives. Angie’s boss, Moe has lifted her spirits through a wellspring of encouragement and made Angie realize that nothing is ever hopeless and as a daughter of Christ she can achieve her goals. And she’s doing just that.

For me, I’m now working in the Church’s elementary services under the supervision of the most encouraging “boss” I’ve ever had, Darcy Woods. Not only does her attitude of encouragement motivate me to reach beyond the limitations the evil one plants in my mind, it motivates me to pass that encouragement on to everyone else I encounter. If every “boss” out there adopted Darcy’s level of encouragement the world economy would certainly flow with milk and honey like never before.

Thanks to Robert’s encouragement I’m not dead or in jail.
Thanks to Angie’s I’m a healed man, husband, father and working as a writer.
Thanks to Pastor Greg I’m living as God intended and no longer swimming upstream in a river of frustration.
Thanks to Darcy’s I now know what I’m supposed to do with my life and I’m on a path to achieve it. Better late than never…

If you ask any of those four people what they did for me, I don’t know that they’d tell you stories of great effort, or lifting heavy burdens. Chances are, they’d simply say something encouraging and go on about their business.

Hopefully, there’s at least one person out there who lists me in their group of encouragers. Honestly, I’d like to make the list of as many people as I can in what time I have left on this earth.

And, I’d like to encourage you to do the same.

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