My son gave me an unusual Christmas gift last year: the gift of encouragement. He committed to writing me (and his sister) a note every day of the coming year. While I don’t think he realized at the time how difficult this commitment would be to keep, he has intentionally made it a point to follow through.
These notes appear randomly. Sometimes I’ll get a collection at once because he got behind but they keep showing up on my pillow and I read them before going to bed at night. And do you know what? They matter. A lot.
They say things like, “I like how you seek wisdom from others.” Or “Good job waking up early to get to the gym.” Or I’ve noticed you’ve been more joyful lately.” Or my favorite: “FYI: I’m on your team.” 🙂 These notes are not lengthy. They are short and simple. They only take a few minutes to write, but they mean so much. And receiving these little bits of encouragement has made me realize I don’t receive or give encouragement nearly enough.
Mr. Noah Webster in his original 1828 dictionary taught me a lot about encouragement. It’s sort of like a dot to dot picture where you have to follow one definition to the next to get a complete understanding of just how valuable encouragement is and how it can affect our lives.
Encouragement is basically the act of giving courage or confidence of success; incentive.
And courage is that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties without fear or depression of spirits. It’s a constituent (essential) part of fortitude which implies patience to bear continued suffering.
Fortitude is that strength of mind or soul which enables a person to encounter danger with coolness and courage. It enables one to bear pain or adversity without murmuring, depression or despondency. It is the basis or source of genuine courage.
Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues. -Noah Webster
Think about this for a minute. If fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues, and fortitude is the basis or source of genuine courage, and encouragement is the act of giving courage, do you see how incredibly important encouragement is?! Wow. I can not wait to meet Mr. Webster in heaven one day and thank him dearly for his insight.
But encourage one another day after day [after day, after day, after day, after day], as long as it is still called “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13
Think of how serious it is to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and the damage it can cause in our lives. What’s the antidote to it? Encouragement.
This is convicting to me as one who often notices the bad far more than the good. Noticing the good takes work. It’s easy to notice and point out other’s faults and failings isn’t it? It’s the way of the flesh – to tear people down rather than build them up. It’s discouraging. I wonder how our lives would be different if we looked for the good and encouraged those small steps of growth in each other while reminding each other of the grace and goodness of God, rather than pointing out the multitude of faults and failings?
Constructive criticism has it’s place in our lives for sure and we need to be willing to hear the bad as well as the good, but maybe it would be better received if we were all more encouraging.
How can you affirm someone today, and tomorrow, and the next day? We all need it so let’s be faithful to find ways we can do it “so that none of us are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) The deceitfulness of sin is serious so that must mean encouragement is serious business. Let’s learn to take it seriously.