I love you: 11 ways to practice the art of encouragement

Encouragement is like water for the soul. It comes in various forms and almost always leaves the person feeling better about self, God and what their role is in the world.

I recently met with a friend who speaks life into me. When I got through with my short coffee with him I felt 10 feet taller. I felt I was a part of something important. I felt seen, special, loved, valued and set up to do good. It was really amazing! I left that meeting knowing that God loved me and that He was using me in the world and the my life counts. Those are beliefs that are so often challenged, yet so easily renewed.

Yesterday I wrote about what if we were to say the things that are “last things,” today instead of at the end of something. We often save our best words of encouragement for when things are ending whether it be someone moving, at the end of a week of camp, a work project or even life itself. We want to make sure people know at the end what we’ve believed all along. So why not say those things now?

Here are some really practical ways to get in the practice of encouraging daily.

1. Keep a set of blank cards and some envelops in a place where you can access them easily. Set a goal to write a card once a week. (Who doesn’t love to get mail?)

2. When you think of someone or have a memory of a friend that makes you smile, or you see today how they made a difference in your life, take a moment to email/facebook/write/call them and tell them. If you don’t have the time at that moment, write it on your to do list to contact them and do it before days end.

3. When you are at the grocery store or any store for that matter and there is a person in front of you with a name tag on and they are serving you. Tell them how much their service means to you and that you appreciate them. Call them by name. That is what a name tag is for! Make it your goal to see them smile by the end of your visit!

4. When at a restaurant and you are being waited on, instead of looking for ways for the waiter or waitress to serve you and make your meal better, look for ways to learn about them. Usually better service comes when people invest. So try to make a friend out of your server, compliment them authentically if you can, thank them profusely and ask questions.

5. When you see a friend, make it your goal to not only compliment them on their appearance, “oh you look nice today,” but what about sharing with them a thought of what they mean to you, or you’re thankful for them, or you really like how they are this or that way. Then tell them they look nice too!

6. At work, make it a goal to see one good quality for each co-worker and then take time, when appropriate, to write an email, brief card or simply stop by their desk and tell them what you observe.

7. When walking downtown and you meet people who make their home on the street. Remember that he or she is a person and make it your goal to through your brief interaction speak words of life over them.

8. Be a person who desires to be a conduit for breathing dignity into others. So, see people as people, not as objects, servants, or the like. But, see each person you come in contact with as an image bearer of God, then treat them with the value that comes with that image.

9. Know that encouragement doesn’t have to be lengthy. If you think it, share it. For example, you’re with a friend who is constantly pointing out beauty and you like that quality. One time, just say, “Hey, I love how you see beauty in so many places.” Or send them a post card that says something like, You see beauty all around you! It helps me to see beauty too. Thanks. A little thought goes a long way!

10. Set a goal to write one word of encouragement on each of your friend’s walls on facebook. A small sentence or paragraph will be a nice surprise when someone opens their facebook account in the morning!

11. Practice! Just do it!

It is a discipline to get into the habit of being a person of encouragement, but you can do it and it will change the way you look at relationships. I can almost guarantee that it will be easier to encourage once you start. It becomes a little less vulnerable a whole lot more exciting when you realize how many people you’ll get to love on in day.

So go out there, stop holding in your kindness and let it ooze all over! Jesus said, Love one another. Let’s practice loving with our words!!!

What ideas do you have on how to encourage others? Share them so we can all learn!

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