In order to celebrate the National Day of Encouragement, which is officially September 12, I think it is important to make those around us feel loved and encouraged, especially that day. Sometimes, we may be at a loss as to what to say to someone who is feeling especially discouraged today, or we may not feel especially motivated to be encouraging, especially if the people around you keep berating you in some way, or they are pressuring you into being someone who you are not or cannot be. However, tough as it may be, the difference we make in others’ lives just by encouraging them can be life-changing. Here are some ways I have found that we can encourage others:
Through words of validation:
My online friend Holly is the best at this, even though she has been invalidated far too often. When I was upset, she always respected my right to vent and feel what I was feeling. She offered me words of encouragement that let me know that she was on my side and would support me through it all. So, how can you validate someone? A) Refrain from judging or condemning the person, even if you disagree with some of the choices the person has made. Just listen to them, and offer words of hope. You don’t have to agree with everything the person is saying, but you don’t have to insult them or be judgmental either. For instance, if someone you know is struggling with an addiction, don’t tell them they “should” do this or that. A.) They may not be prepared to hear advice yet, and will just shut down if you try to tell them “shoulds.” B) A better way to approach this person is to tell them that you will support them when they are ready to stop the addiction and will be there for them even now. Another way to validate someone is to affirm their best qualities. This validation will especially boost a person who struggles with low self-esteem. Of course, do not just “flatter” them to get something you want, but do it in a genuine, heartfelt way.
When someone is going through a tough time:
I just had a really bad day yesterday when I was just feeling down on myself and was very stressed. However, several people who were really close to me encouraged me by reminding me of the good that I had accomplished in my life and told me how I was doing the best I could. Telling someone who is struggling with depression that they are doing the best they can for the situation that they are in expresses both empathy and validation for their struggle. While other people may wrongly think that they are just being “lazy” or “negative” in some way, you can be the beacon of hope and encouragement in their lives by validating their struggle. You can also encourage people going through a tough time by just spending quality time with them. When one of the congregants at my church was very sick, many people visited and encouraged her. She was very happy to see us, and thus she was able to not feel so alone in her pain.
Through words and actions of appreciation:
There are only a few things worse, in my opinion, than having the good that you have done on earth or for someone go unappreciated or rejected. However, some people feel that the good that they do is either in vain, or that no one appreciates them. I am trying to change that mindset in my sphere of influence by making sure that the good that people have done for me does not go unappreciated. I want the people in my life to know that they matter and that they are loved. You can also make sure the good that the people in your life have done for you is appreciated and valued. Some of the ways you can show your appreciation for others is by writing them a heartfelt thank-you note, by telling them how much you appreciate them (It is better if you can point to specific instances where you felt loved and cared for by them.) , and by caring for them in their time of need.
These are some of the ways I have found that you can encourage others today. Many people around you are facing stressors of different kinds, and some are even feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by life’s circumstances. However, with your words of encouragement, you can help boost their whole outlook on life and give them hope in whatever they are facing. Let’s be encouraging to those around us, starting today and see the world change for the better!