I don’t like running very much. I like it more than I used to, but I’d still rather sit at home for an hour reading comics and eating ice cream. I know it’s good for me, though, so I get out there and hit some pavement.
A wonderful moment happened to me yesterday while I was running. I was on my first mile and I saw someone else coming up on the other side of a four-lane road. I didn’t think to acknowledge him because he was so far away but as we neared each other he let out a shout of encouragement and gave me a fist pump. I don’t look like a runner and he definitely did. He didn’t let the obvious gap in our expertise, though, keep him from offering me some encouragement.
I thought about that little shout and fist bump for the rest of my run. Not even half a mile into my run I had someone go out of his way just to offer me a little encouragement. He saw that I was trying, he saw that I was out there, and he wanted to let me know that he approved. I was going to run my 4.4 miles whether that guy said something to me or not, but they were much more enjoyable because he did.
That’s the power of encouragement. Someone I didn’t know went out of his way to offer me three seconds of encouragement and it changed my day. How much more of an impact could we have if we were even a little more intentional about encouraging others?
Encouraging others doesn’t come naturally for me. I did not get encouragement as a spiritual gift. I wish sarcasm were a spiritual gift because then I could justify how much of a jerk I can be. I used to tell our students that I made fun of them because I loved them; it was my love language.
I’m fine joking around with my friends and a well-placed burn shows me love. However, there is something powerful when we put aside the joking and sarcasm to actually encourage someone. I have many people in my life who excel at encouragement. Every interaction with them is encouraging in some way, either because of something they say, something they do or just how intentional they are. People like that are infectious; we want to be around people like that.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to a level like that, but I can get better. I’m never going to stop making jokes at the expense of my friends, but I can mix in some encouraging words. I can send sincere texts just because or even send someone a note in the mail just to let them know I’m praying for them. Encouragement is powerful and it’s a power we all possess. We just need to try.
What helps you encourage others?