Since Gary Chapman released his book, The Five Love Languages, in 1995, thousands of people are now able to identify their primary love language – that is, how they most prefer to give and receive love.
Some people feel most loved when they are touched or embraced. Others when their special someone does a chore for them or simply spends time with them. Some light up when their significant other hands them an unexpected gift or words of affirmation.
And though encouragement is a loving behavior, it brings about a different effect than receiving love. Love nurtures; whereas, encouragement inspires. Encouragement, however, can come in the love language forms. Spoken words, pats on the back, your presence at special events, your help in accomplishing a goal, your listening ear and undivided attention, a material token of support – there is a way to show encouragement to your loved one in every love language.
It is easy to lose hope and to lose sight of the finish line; therefore, it is important to be a source of encouragement for your special lady or gentleman. We all need someone to propel us forward when we are weak, tired, or not too sure of ourselves.
- Encouragement Builds. Personally, I am not a fan of the self-esteem movement. I think giving trophies to everyone for attendance creates a sense of entitlement in kids – “I came, I participated, and I am awesome no matter how well I played. Now reward me. ” Not only do false accolades create a me-centered, narcissistic society, but it also diminishes the need for children to discover their real gifts and talents. “I went to soccer, never played, and still got a trophy,” versus “I do not care for soccer and I am not very good at it. Maybe I can learn guitar and play in a band someday.” When people work hard and accomplish something, it builds honest to goodness confidence – not manufactured self-esteem which has no foundation and does not last. Interestingly, under the “get a trophy for showing up” paradigm, the sense of entitlement and narcissism remains, but the boosted self-esteem does not. Everyone is gifted in some way and encouragement can build them up and help them discover what those talents are and how they would like to use them.
- Encouragement Stirs. We recently worked with a client who has a gift for motivational speaking. Even though we were coaching him and his soon-to-be fiancée, I left our coaching sessions feeling stirred up to succeed. Speaking Scripture, sharing positive thoughts, and proclaiming true messages are all ways to encourage and stir each other up to love and good works, as we are told to do in Hebrews 10:24-25.
- Encouragement Lightens. When I am encouraged by Eric, a loved one, or a friend, it lightens my heart. When I am weighed down with discouragement, when I have beaten myself up for not doing well enough, or when I am tired and losing sight of the prize, encouragement declutters my mind and lightens the weight from my chest.
- Encouragement Increases Intimacy. When someone takes the time and energy to encourage you, do you not feel genuinely closer to him or her? If Eric never encouraged me, but my neighbor did, I would likely feel closer to my neighbor than my husband. Thankfully, Eric does encourage me and he is an incredible blessing. So many affairs begin because one or both people are seeking to be heard, understood, and appreciated. If he is not getting any respect or encouragement at home, but receives it from his secretary, it is easy to see how he could be tempted to draw closer to her. It does not make it right, but it is understandable how the downward spiral might begin. The same is true for women. If our guys are not giving us any positive feedback, we may be tempted to find a fitness instructor, male co-worker, or kind male classmate to fill that void. If you are not being encouraged by your sweetie, take steps to safeguard your relationship by confiding in a same-sex friend. Encouragement bonds us with each other and is a layer of protection against developing affairs.
- Encouragement Lifts. I love the song Wind Beneath My Wings. It makes me think of the people who have lifted me out of my nest and spurred me on to succeed. Their support gave me the courage to step out and do something. Otherwise, I am sure I would have found a thousand reasons to take the easy (read: lazy) route. Your encouragement may be the difference between your sweetheart sitting on the coach or conquering the world.
If you had to grade yourself on how encouraging you have been to your special someone, what would you earn? An A? B-? D+? It hurts to admit, but I think I am at about a C lately. Eric may feel differently, but I know I could beef up my encouragement to him. Because he is so generally confident, I tend to forget that he is still human and still needs support.
Ask your sweetie what you can do to encourage him or her this coming week. You may be surprised by what you hear! ~smile~
Are you an encourager extraordinaire or do you need to ramp up your encouragement this week?