“More people fail for lack of _______________ than for any other reason.”
–Ruth Bell Graham
What word would you put in that blank space? Possibilities include:
Perhaps you can think of more. To be honest, the four determinants listed above can be difficult to provide. 1) College educations are expensive. 2) Opportunity often involves knowing the right people. 3) Effort and faith are personal choices.
But Ruth Graham did not give the highest value to any of those words. She chose…encouragement.
I’m struck by the simplicity of her statement. Unlike education, opportunity, effort, or faith, encouragement is something every one of us can provide for others.
And encouragement is sweet! It’s delightful to give and delightful to receive.
(“Pleasant words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” — Proverbs 16:24).
One thing about honey, though. A little bit goes a long way. Same thing with our words, even words meant to encourage. There’s a thin line between having said just enough and having said way too much!
Perhaps you’re familiar with Diogenes’ adage:
(“We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.”)
King Solomon also shared wisdom regarding the words we speak: “The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words” (Proverbs 10:19, The Message).
So what measured words might be the most beneficial, as we seek to encourage others? These tips have been helpful to me; perhaps you’ll find them useful also.
- Affirmation. Statements that begin with, “God has SO gifted you with…” Then name the strengths, talents, and personality traits you see. Give examples of when you’ve seen those attributes demonstrated. Prove to them they are strong-spirited, intelligent, etc.
- The nice things we’ve heard about that person. Always pass on the positives!
- Stories of perseverance and faith, from our own experience or that of others. Our life lessons might provide just the uplift someone else needs, to give her new resolve and hope. (Just remember to keep it brief–no lengthy sermons!)
Encouragement may be quite easy to supply, but is nevertheless a precious and powerful gift.
It may keep someone from the cliff of failure.
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Thank you, Father, for the privilege of being your voice to minister to others. We pray for your Spirit’s wisdom and strength to work in us and through us as we offer encouragement. In the name of Jesus, amen.
What words of encouragement have been an inspiration to you? Tell us your story in the comments below.