Most of us have seen some encouragement memes of baby with its fist in the air saying “you’ve got this” or a sunset over the beach reading “you have purpose, you are loved, there couldn’t be a better you.” Memes like this attempt to lift our spirits during some stressful days, but aside from these often enjoyable pictures there is a deeper more holistic level of encouragement. This deeper encouragement is what God seems to advocate when he tells us to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
There are notably four types of encouragement: affirming, exhorting, modeling, and accompanying. Affirming is often the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about encouragement. Many of us have been taught to say kind words to others, yet affirming involves more than saying nice things. It suggests and honest appreciation for and understanding of the other person, which requires intentionality to express. Next, exhortation is the type of encouragement that involves counsel. This is an encouragement that requires a level of trust between the individuals yet can be rather fruitful when someone exhorts or persuades another to continue to walk faithfully of God’s calling in a broken world. Similarly, modeling persuades others to walk faithfully yet does so by someone simply living a grateful and honoring life for God’s pleasure. Finally, accompanying is the form of encouragement in which you walk alongside someone as they go through a hard time. This is not generally supposed to be a one-time offer of help, but rather a consistent and gracious friendship that carries on throughout someone’s pain.
Practicing these forms of encouragement and receiving encouragement in these ways can be an exciting experience. Yet as Christians we must remember that encouragement ultimately comes from and is made possible by God. There would be no encouragement, no hope for the future, no redemption of our own skills if it were not for the gospel. It is also notable that although it may be proper to ask others for encouragement when we need it, it is improper to encourage someone in order to have them encourage us or build us up in return. This is flattery, which is spoken against in the Bible. It has selfish intents and does not genuinely seek to use encouragement in the way it was meant to be used.
Encouragement is another way of breathing life into others. It literally means “to give courage” or “to give heart.” It is meant to provide both verbal and non-verbal support to another and convince them either of a truth of God’s Word or the potential of God-given capacities. I can tell you that I would never have flourished as writer if others had not told me that they thought I did well in that area. I would never have tried to perfect the techniques or ever believed that what I had to offer held any substance. But words and all forms of communication have the power to enhance lives and build up others. Does your communication breathe life into other? If not, start by listening and being grateful, then be intentional about letting that life flow from your heart.
Schultze, Quentin. Badzinski, Diane: An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication. chapter 6