Encouragement for most of us is not a natural thing to extend to others. We are more interested in our own personal success rather than helping others. Eve in Genesis 3:5 was taken in by the statement from the serpent that she would be like God if she ate the forbidden fruit. She saw great benefit for herself and so went ahead and took a chance that led to disaster. She didn’t consider others in this decision.
It’s easy to understand that we want encouragement but it’s harder to give encouragement. We find it easy to extend encouragement to those whose success is non-threatening to us such as our children, or one whose success has nothing to do with ours. However it can be difficult to offer praise when another’s success may highlight our lack of success or their success may infringe on ours in some way.
We may be excellent at throwing out slighted compliments such as “you’ve come a long way” or “you’ve really improved”. Alternatively we can diminish their success by pointing out things that detract from their achievement. For example, they were given a head start in some way.
If someone succeeds, then support them wholeheartedly. If someone tries some thing new, then champion them on. If someone is having to fill the shoes of another, then be ready to be their greatest support.
Competition or Jealousy
In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul talks of running a race. He’s in a competition. The Bible is full of battles with mankind fighting each other. It is good to remember that competition is normal but remember the side that you are on. What will come from your lips when another succeeds or takes up a new challenge? Will we allow our words to be tinged with jealousy? Are we truly examining our heart and disciplining ourselves to stay true to God and others.
Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12 to “fight the good fight.” This reminds me that in keeping a great attitude, that I must not start excusing another’s success but recognise it for what it truly is. We often think that achievement is easy but many achievers stand alone since few want to cheer them on.
The Power of Encouragement
The great apostle Paul writes to Philemon, “My brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake— give me this encouragement in Christ.” Paul writes pleading the case of another. Paul writes asking that this slave be given another chance. Paul wanted Philemon to recognise this slave’s salvation and welcome his as a brother. Paul wanted Philemon to encourage the slave so that he could succeed further in life.
Encouragement and praise are powerful. Proverbs 12:25 says “an encouraging word cheers a person up.” We can shift our attitudes from waiting to get encouraged to being an encourager.
When we struggle to praise and encourage, we are often disappointed that it was not ourselves that experienced success. However, if we discipline ourselves to praise, we fuel one another and build extensions into one another’s lives that strengthen bonds.