“Bless their heart…” I learned the meaning of this adage while living in Springfield, MO. It describes how a well-intentioned person attempts a good deed while failing at the execution. Think of the husband who buys a trash compacter for an anniversary present. A child hands you a half-eaten lollipop in hopes of sharing. You can probably identify your own experiences of well-intentioned deeds gone wrong.
Encouragement can fall into the category of, “Bless their heart.” People will say things like hang in there, it will get better or there is light at the end of the tunnel. Though these words come from a motivation to help, they do not always come at the right moment. People quote Bible verses with the same idea. Not to negate the truth of Scripture, but often the best encouragement comes when we live these verses out.
I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” These words come from the Apostle Paul to a group of people in need of remembering God’s work in their lives. The Bible commands us to encourage. So the question for us, how can we encourage others in a helpful manner?
Here are a few insights to consider in our attempt to encourage each other:
1. Start with listening.
People desire a space to be heard. Often, we can immediately begin give advice without actually understanding what the other person faces. In many cases, listening might be the greatest gift you can give a person. Let the person talk. People who feel heard also have the opportunity to release the weight of their thoughts.
2. Include, Include, Include.
I know some of the greatest encouragement I received came from invitations. People with struggles may need to simply be around others. Have them over for dinner. Watch the game with them. Encouragement does not always mean actually talking about the issue. It may mean creating spaces of joy. When you invite someone, you say to them, “We would like you here.”
3. Write Cards or Letters.
Companies still write greeting cards. Call it nostalgia, but people save these cards. Your written word can have far more permanence than spoken word. This act communicates that you are thinking of others.
4. Provide helpful resources.
Share books. Email links to podcasts. Print out articles. Sometimes receiving resources like these provides a different perspective. This also invites a new conversation.
Now you share, what are ways you receive encouragement?
Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.