Encouraging words last a lifetime

Happy New Year!

Here’s my resolution, in three words: Be more encouraging.

Sounds so simple, but most of us don’t do it. Oh, we’re quick to criticize and point out what we see as faults and mistakes. But when it comes to praise, we’re stingy.

Here’s the problem with that. You see, too many people go through life working hard, doing their best, and no one says anything. No one seems to care. No one notices. Sometimes, that can be discouraging. And discouragement isn’t easily defeated.

Here’s an example.

I was chatting with my wife the other day about growing up and a district championship track meet my senior year in high school. Running the mile in Husky Stadium in Seattle. Biggest race of my life. Excited, nervous, scared when the starting gun sounded. I had secret hopes of a spectacular sprint to the finish and pulling out a stunning victory. As I recall, I ran a poor race and finished close to last. But what stuck with me wasn’t my performance. It was that no one in my family was there to watch. I believe my parents were both working. Older brother and sisters weren’t too interested. I recall, when asked how it went, dismissing it as unimportant, and telling everyone they didn’t miss anything so it’s good they didn’t waste their time. But I was disappointed and discouraged.

On the flipside, I recall running my first marathon and my oldest brother met me along the way at several points, even running with me for long stretches, handing me water bottles and rooting for me the whole way. I never forgot that.

Now, don’t get wrong. I’m not saying everyone needs to get a pat on the back for everything they do. I’m not saying give out trophies to every person on the planet. I’m not even saying we all need to be cheerleaders. But I am saying it wouldn’t be a terrible thing if we had a good word to say to someone, showed genuine interest, rather than the usual “How have you been?” and then go on our way.

What if we said, “Hey, keep up your good work. I’m proud of you.”

Still, while most of us won’t admit it, we like to be praised. We like recognition. We like it when we do well, and people notice. We like it if people listen when we speak. We like it when people cheer for us. We like it when someone says “Good job,” “Way to go,” and, as they say in Ireland, “Well done.”

This isn’t restricted to parents being boosters for their kids. It isn’t limited to friends and family. A good word can go much farther, have a greater impact, than we know.

To encourage someone to believe in themselves, to have faith to challenge themselves, to keep plugging ahead, can change lives for the better. You can’t give out too much encouragement, but whether you realize it or not, you can certainly be discouraging by never offering a good word — by never saying anything. And a discouraged person is often a defeated one.

So that said, here are a few quotes from famous folks about encouragement. These people will tell you, positive input played a key part in their story.

w “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

w “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.” — Stephen R. Covey

w “Be an Encourager: When you encourage others, you boost their self-esteem, enhance their self-confidence, make them work harder, lift their spirits and make them successful in their endeavors. Encouragement goes straight to the heart and is always available. Be an encourager. Always.” — Roy T. Bennett

w “Remember: It costs nothing to encourage an artist, and the potential benefits are staggering.” — Kevin Smith.

w “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” — Bill Gates.

And one of my favorites:

w “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” — Maya Angelou

In 2020, let’s give out encouraging words like they’re free. Let’s give them out like we have an infinite supply of them.

Because we do.


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