This week as I was doing a study, I came across this question: Are you an encourager? It took me a minute to realize that I am not as encouraging as I should or have been called to be. This then led to the next logical question: Well, why not? And this is what I hope to share with you all this week. If like me you feel like you are lacking as an encourager, maybe these points may help as you try to grow in this area of your life.
The first reason I think I find it hard to encourage others is because I have a high standard. This means I expect myself and others to perform at a certain level. Thus, if people are below that level I feel the need to coach, (criticize), in order to help them get up to the level of my expectation. If they are at my level expectation, I feel no need to encourage because they are just meeting what I expect them to. If they exceed my level of expectation, then in that moment I may encourage, but because my standards are usually so high this rarely happens.
Maybe you are like me and feel like you have high expectations and thus find it hard to encourage those not meeting those standards. Jesus spoke about people like you and I in Matthew 7:2 where He said “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Those same high standards we are holding others to, God will be holding us to. Wouldn’t we rather get grace, mercy and encouragement from our Heavenly Father rather than criticism? If you want to become a better encourager, learn to lower your expectations, (in fact, getting rid of expectations for others is best but difficult). We are not called to be the judge, God alone is. When we have expectations we typically criticize because when those expectations aren’t met our typical response is anger or frustration. Rather, if we are able to remove our expectations on others, we can also remove the anger and frustration which frees us up to encourage instead of criticize.
Second, I think we find it hard to encourage others because we have in us a fleshly desire for our exaltation. This plays itself out most often in two ways in my life. First, I can get caught up praising my works while simultaneously putting others down to feed this fleshly desire. So because I desire to be exalted, it leaves little room for me to encourage others, (unless the encouragement really is just a backhanded way of gloating).
This falls into the danger Paul describes in Galatians 1:10: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” I can get so caught up trying to please man, (look good to others, be exalted, etc..), that instead of rightly encouraging others I tear down or exalt myself. Notice Paul says this type of attitude prevents of from being able to be a “servant of Christ.”
Instead, we must not be so concerned with the fleeting praise of man but instead desire that God gets the glory as He alone deserves it. If we are truly seeking the glory of God and not our own, we will find it easier to encourage others because we are no longer jockeying for that praise of man.
I feel this desire for self-exaltation though, also plays itself out when I meet people who have similar strengths or weaknesses. Honestly, it is easy for me to encourage another persons strength if it is my weakness. So I will consistently encourage those who are artistic or people oriented because I don’t feel gifted in those ways. But, when it is something I feel, (or desire to be or be known as), gifted in, I find it much harder to encourage.
This clearly is a pride issue. To be unable to recognize those who have similar and greater strengths than us is to allow pride to reign in our lives. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” When we try to exalt ourselves or the abilities, talents or gifts God has given us, Jesus says we will be humbled. Not we will become humble, but we will be humbled.
What does it look like to be humbled? Maybe you think you are quite a cook but when you let your friend try your dish they throw up because of how bad it tastes. Maybe you think you are quite the speaker until you give a speech and everyone falls asleep. Maybe you think you are a great basketball player until someone greater than you shows up and makes you look average at best. This is being humbled.
Jesus promises that as long as we try to exalt ourselves, God will allow us to be put in situations where whatever that thing is we are are exalting comes crashing back to earth. You will always find people better than you, even at those things you think you are really good at. Instead of exalting yourself only to have God humble you, (and trust me, usually this isn’t fun), why not humble yourself that God Himself, (not man), may exalt you? If you want to become a better encourager, learn to encourage and congratulate those who have the same gifts as you.
The battle to be a better encourager is one that will be fought against our pride and desire for praise, two of the toughest sin roots to battle. But encouragement is the way to battle these roots. So my hope and prayer for myself and those of you like me is that we would daily make decisions to encourage others instead of tearing them down. That we would not let expectations or desire for praise keep us from experiencing the fullness of joy of being a Christ Follower. I hope we can all become as humble as John the Baptist who, upon seeing many of His disciples leave him to follow Jesus said, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30).