Building Better Relationships — Week 4 Reflections

August 11, 2006

encourage.gifThis week’s topic was “Encouraging One Another.” There were four particular passages that struck me as I read them:

The enemy of encouragement is criticism, the discourager. We need to remind ourselves that criticism changes no one and often becomes counter-productive. Too often, I think the tendency is to criticize something that we want changed. I think it’s important to remember that we must choose our words and actions carefully, because if we offer criticism that is harsh or unfounded, it may have the exact opposite effect from the one we desire.

When discouraged by criticism, I overeat and hold a pity party to which I invite no one but myself. A dangerous downward spiral of negative thinking begins with my telling myself, “I never do anything right. I’m ineffective in the Kingdom of God, and no one likes me.” Too often I allow one perceived failure or one critical remark to trigger depression. The author wrote this, but I easily could have. In essence, this is what I wrote about here. Criticism can be a very destructive force, whether it comes from ourselves or others (the need to encourage ourselves as well as others was an important point that was raised in our discussion group). Why not focus on offering encouragement, which can be a great positive motivator?

Just as we want to criticize actions and not people, we want to praise actions and not people. I have to say, I was totally surprised by this one. I knew that you were supposed to criticize actions and not people, but it had never occurred to me that the same should hold true for praise and encouragement. The author states that exaggerated compliments (“You are the nicest person in the world!”) are often dismissed or refused by the person we are complimenting. She contends that it is better to praise the nice aspect of the person (“I appreciate your warm greeting and friendly smile.”). I realize that I probably praise people more than their actions (particularly where my kids are concerned), so this is something I am making an effort to change.

Encouragement can be conveyed by our physical presence, practical help or in our spoken and written words. An encourager comforts, consoles, exhorts, takes another’s side, and helps. I think it’s important to remember that encouragement (and its flip side, criticism) can be expressed in non-verbal ways as well as the words we speak. Encouragement can be a hug, offered assistance, even a kind look.

The most significant revelation I experienced as I read this chapter was that I need to work on being more of an encourager for my family. It’s too easy to fall into a habit of criticism with those you live with (and especially those you are expected to discipline). I am making an effort to measure my words carefully and to look for opportunities to encourage the people around me.

Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. Proverbs 12:18 (NLT)


One comment

  1. Great subject we all need to remember. Another great thought I heard tonight was to remember to Jesus said ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matt 22:37-40) This means we need to truly love ourselves, as God created us! A terrific suggestion made was to keep an encouragement fold of things said, given, etc about YOU, so when you’re down you can be reminded how beautiful and appreciated you are in the eyes and words of others.

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