We need to think very carefully how we do this, a badly chosen 'encouragement' can be very damaging, and on those occasions it would have been better to have said nothing at all.
Some of us find it very difficult to say what we are good at, where our talents lie, what gives us worth. I have been in that place along with many others, who have gone through periods of feeling like the most worthless, useless, waste of a human being on the planet. Thankfully I am over that now and can confess - I am awesome, humble too!
But on more than one occasion I have been on the receiving end of well meant, but badly thought out encouragement; it can be destructive and leave you having to build yourself up and encourage yourself, which we all know is one of the hardest things to do, which is precisely why Paul tells us to encourage and build each other up because we just can't do it for ourselves.
So how do we best encourage one another? Don't rush to speak because you feel the need to encourage is urgent, saying nothing will be less harmful than rushing to speak and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind e.g you know the person always has a clean house so you tell them how great they are at vacuuming and what an amazing skill that is. No, look at who they really are, not what they can achieve at a surface level (even if that surface is a dust free carpet) they may well have an immaculate house but suggesting vacuuming is their talent is going to leave them wondering if that's all they're good for, is that really how people see them?
Also this week I saw a quote from Tim Keller, mega church Pastor on Facebook "When work is your identity, success goes to your head, and failure goes to your heart"
This struck a chord with me, as so often the cop out way to encourage someone is to tell them how good they are at their job. But we need to look past the 9-5 to really find who that person is and to build them up. Of course there are some jobs that are only suited to people with certain skills and talents; but when you are encouraging, don't default to what their job is or you are in danger of reinforcing their job as being their identity.
If you want to encourage someone, think about where you have seen that person shine and really show their true selves, where are they happiest? Who do they spend time with? What do they do, that others would struggle to do?
And if you can't do that, please, please, just stop and think, is what I'm about to say actually going to help that person or harm them? Are they going to have to undo the words I speak and find a new truth to speak to themselves?
Remember, we are more than what is seen on the outside, our worth comes from more than our occupation, our worth comes from within, from our hearts inside our dreams. We have been created with purpose not for purpose, our talents are what drive us, they make us who we are. And that is something to be encouraged by.