Forward thinking: On encouragement and being an encourager

Encouragement: the act of giving hope, approval or support to someone.

It was a bright Sunday afternoon.

The banner hung over the wall on the forty yard line in Texas Stadium – home of the Dallas Cowboys football team.

The words were painted in bright red on a king size bed sheet for all America to read. The message read:

THE OPERA AIN’T OVER TILL THE FAT LADY SINGS.

You see, the guys in Silver and Blue were struggling to stay in the race for the playoffs. So, a dyed-in-the-wool Cowboys’ fan decided he would offer some back- home encouragement straight out of his country western repertoire. He had scratched around in his garage on Saturday and found some paint, a brush, a ruler and splashed those words on a discarded sheet.

THE OPERA AIN’T OVER TILL THE FAT LADY SINGS.

It was the fan’s way of saying, “We’re hangin’ in there baby. Don’t count us out. We have three game left before anybody can say for sure — so we’re not giving up. The opera ain’t over.”

Encouragement. Encouragement is to a team what wind is to a sail. It moves people forward. It lifts their spirit. It puts a bounce in their step. Their energy level soars. Their confidence and resolve is strengthened.

Encouragement is awesome. Think about it. It has the capacity to lift a person’s shoulders. It can spark the flicker of a smile on the face of a discouraged child. It can breathe fresh fire into the fading embers of a smoldering dream. It can change the course of another person’s day, week or life. That, my friend, is no small thing!

Encouragement can make a huge impact on others, and everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less than successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it. It was the novelist Mark Twain who said, “One compliment can keep me going for a whole month.”

The impact encouragement makes on people can be profound. A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement by a leader can inspire a person to reach his or her potential. Like Zig Ziglar use to say, “You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life. “

Even if you don’t have an “official” leadership position or title, you can become a great encourager. Parents can encourage members of their family. Friends can share encouraging words to help someone get through a rough time or strive for greatness. Wherever you find yourself, you can help create an environment where people can become their best.

I could be wrong, but I believe that deep down everyone wants to become an encourager — even the most negative person. We all want to be a positive influence in the lives of others. And, we can be! If you want to lift people up, keep the following in mind:

1. Encouragers give others encouragement daily.

Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca observed, “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” In other words, if you want to lift people up, do it daily.

2. Encouragers initiate the positive in a negative environment.

It’s one thing to be positive in a positive or neutral environment. It is another to be an instrument of change in a negative environment. Yet, that’s what encouragers try to do. You may not always succeed, but it is not through the lack of trying. Sometimes it requires a kind word. Other times it takes a servant’s action. Occasionally it calls for creativity.

3. Encouragers understand life is not a dress rehearsal.

There is a quote I’ve always loved: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

People who lift others up don’t wait until tomorrow or some other “better” day to help people. They act now! They strike while the iron is hot!

Everyone. I repeat. Everyone has the potential to become an encourager.

You don’t have to be wealthy. You don’t have to be a genius. You don’t have to have it all together – and if we are honest, most of us don’t. All you have to do is care about people and be willing to take the initiative when the opportunity presents itself.

A number of years ago, a pastor and friend of mine shared a story about the power of encouragement. He pastored a large congregation that staged an elaborate Christmas program each December. It was a big production with over 200 people participating in more than twenty performances. He acknowledged that by the end of the season, everyone who participated was exhausted.

Like any good Christmas program, this one always included dozens of children. He shared that one year as he stood in the wings while the children came off stage, he noticed they looked tired, and a little discouraged. That’s when he decided to make it his mission to encourage those kids, and let them know what a wonderful job they were doing as they came off stage.

He went on to say that in the few seconds he had with them as they filed past him, he showered them with as many sincere compliments as he could. “Good job,” “Great smile,” “You were wonderful.”

He continued his story by saying that at first the kids seemed surprised and little embarrassed as he praised them. Some looked at the ground or turned red. Only a few smiled. But after several performances, he could see that they were becoming more confident. They began walking taller. More and more of them were smiling.

Before long, he could see that every time they exited the stage, they were looking for him in the wings, hoping and expecting to receive praise for the work they had done. By the final performance, they were jumping around, giving high fives and cheering one another on.

Again I would remind you. None of us should ever forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less than successful, unknown or famous — is changed by it.

I cannot urge you too strongly to use whatever influence you have to lift up others. Encourage them. Help them reach their potential.

No act is too small. No kindness is too insignificant. No positive word is too uninspired. You may make someone’s day. Or you may change the course of their life.

Until next time…

–By Loren Simmonds

Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 37 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years, including eight as Council President. He remains active in the community by serving on the Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, Civil Service Commission and the Snohomish County Planning Commission. He believes that volunteerism sows the seeds of community. Loren is semi-retired and works as a writer, speaker and leadership coach.

  1. Thank you for the grand words and thoughts of this article. Thank you for the reminders that a little effort can go a very long way and that each and every person has the necessary resources to provide encouragement to anybody – it is not just for the successful, or the wealthy, or the famous. All of us have the capability no matter our lot in life. One thing left unwritten is that the more we encourage, the more we will notice others giving us encouragement. What goes around, comes around!

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