Scripture emphasizes encouragement (see Rom. 1:11-12 and 1 Thess. 5:11), and I think it’s easy to see why. We can likely think of a time someone encouraged us, and how that kindness strengthened us. Encouragement is impactful, as it can continue to give hope and inspire, even as time passes. But just as we know that encouragement can be impactful, we can also likely think of a time someone discouraged us, and how that left us feeling weak. Words can build people up or knock them down, so we must choose to use them wisely and intentionally.
I’ve learned that encouragement can be shared in several ways, with one simple way being through complimenting others. National Compliment Day is on January 24, and we can begin to foster a heart of encouragement by practicing the following purposeful habits all month to kick off 2021.
1. Be genuine. No flattery! As an Enneagram 3 with a desire to “achieve,” I am often fueled by encouraging words (or words of affirmation). A danger in this is if you cannot tell the difference between flattery and genuine, earnest encouragement. Flattery ends up hurting people rather than helping them (Prov. 29:5-6). Flattery also often comes from a position of your own selfishness when you excessively and insincerely praise people in a strategic attempt to gain control, “get on their good side,” make them like you, etc.—anything that involves dishonest manipulation. Just as we should be wary of manipulators, we should also refuse to take advantage of others.
When we focus on how we might help someone through genuine encouragement, love abounds: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25, ESV). Flattery sparks pride, but encouragement sparks love.
2. Understand how to receive genuine compliments so you can give them well. Just as it is important to give encouragement, it is also valuable to understand how to receive a genuine compliment. If someone compliments you, don’t try to shrug it off or demean yourself in an effort to not appear prideful. Christ says in Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (CSB). To do this, we don’t need to be the “lovers of self,” (selfish people who only focus on their own interests1), that 2 Timothy 3 instructs to avoid, but we must know how to love ourselves rightly as redeemed people of God in order to love others well. We can gratefully accept these compliments while still maintaining a posture of humility, which will in turn allow us to grow in our confidence of the gifts God has given us.
Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (ESV). When receiving compliments with a humble heart and a desire to please God over people, we can use this encouragement to fuel us to love others deeper and help others greater.
3. Branch out from the standard appearance-based compliments such as, “I love your shoes,” or “Your hair looks great!” There’s nothing wrong with these kinds of compliments if they’re in earnest—they can be a great confidence boost—but try to go deeper than only surface-level comments by looking at someone’s heart in an effort to be more like our Lord.
“For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7b, NKJV). While practicing this purposeful habit, try giving genuine encouragement both to strangers/acquaintances and people you know really well. Depending on your personality, one might be harder than the other for you to remember to do in your day-to-day life, but both are important.
4. Be personable. Personable simply means someone who is pleasant, friendly, and empathetic. Don’t force a compliment—give it with a smile! Helping the person feel special is a great way to be personable. Typically, speaking with someone face-to-face is the more personable route, but in this age of social distancing, there are other ways to encourage someone. Try writing a kind note and mailing it, calling someone to let her know you’re thinking about her, or sending a sweet text. Social media also provides a great outlet to express encouragement. Don’t expect anything in return when you share the encouraging words, but share them with a heart of thankfulness for the person you’re affirming.
When doing this, also try to broaden your circle of encouragement by complimenting someone who isn’t a part of your generation. There’s nothing bad about sending encouragement to your best girlfriend, but sharing a message to someone several years older or younger than you can be an unexpected blessing for both of you. Recently, an older leader in my life from when I was in high school left me a simple note that said she was praying for me and the work I was doing. My heart was filled with joy and gratitude to know that someone who I don’t presently see often but who I looked up to in my youth still cared about me and what I was doing.
5. Praise God. God deserves our respect and honor more than anyone else. The psalmists recognized this well in their songs of praise: “For the LORD is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.” (Ps. 100:5, CSB). God does not need our praise (or anything from us, for that matter), but He knows that when we delight in praising Him, we will grow closer to Him.
C. S. Lewis once said: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”2 Feelings of joy are best when shared. We want to express what we enjoy, and we enjoy what we value. This year, seek to value God and your relationship with Him and let your enjoyment fully overflow in praise. God is the only One who deserves our complete praise, but through praising Him, we can understand the joy that can come from encouraging others.
Erin Franklin is a production editor on the Lifeway Women’s Bible Studies team. A graduate of Lipscomb University and a lifelong Tennessean, she enjoys a good ping-pong match, photography, and learning new things. You can connect with her on Instagram @erin_franklin and on Twitter @erinefranklin.
1. Strong’s G5367, Blue Letter Bible, accessed December 29, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5367&t=ESV.
2. C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: HarperCollins, 2017, reprint), 111.