To be an encourager is the highest level of virtuous influence attainable by mankind.
Several months ago, I nervously approached one of my thinking coaches feeling hopelessly defeated. Things weren’t going too well and I was convinced it was time to give up. I had massive doubts about myself as I did not see the progress in life that I had expected. There was nothing positive in the foreseeable future. Surely, I was a failure and I needed one of my thinking coaches to beat some cold hard truth into my brain about my lack of improvement in order for me to except that I simply don’t measure up. If that was what I was looking for, I went to the wrong person.
After desperately explaining to him how hopeless I was, my thinking coach said some surprising things that struck a cord and encouraged me more than I had ever expected. He said some very simple things that I could have found on countless memes with a click of the mouse; but I had come to believe that such inspiration was not directed towards me, because the person who wrote it did not have every scenario in mind, let alone my own, when the statement was made. But here was someone who knew exactly what was going on and yet he still told me not to give up. He told me exactly that, “Don’t give up yet. I have full confidence in you.” Somehow, that made all the difference; but it didn’t stop there.
My thinking coach shared a phrase that changed the way I view progress. He said sometimes the missing puzzle piece is “long obedience in the same direction”. We talked about several different possible obstacles that could be stunting improvement, but this is the only one I specifically remember. It means that you just continue to be faithful to what you know; and be patient. Over complicating things can cause us to bypass the essential basics and worry so much about “getting it right” that we miss the whole point. Sometimes we just need to do what we already know we should be doing and stop doing the things we already knew would be detrimental. This simple realization put my mind to rest.
He went on to say that the doubts and questions I had just described in my life, were things he has experienced in his. That blew my mind. My first thought was, “If he has struggled with this and yet ended out the way he is now, then I still have hope for becoming like him.” It had never occurred to me before that I was not the only one with such doubts and roadblocks. Now, my thinking coach is telling me I am not alone and that things are not as bleak as they seem. He told me that I’m going to be okay. How could he think that when he knew how bad things were?
It is easy to hop on YouTube and find some motivational speaker telling you that you will be okay, everything will work out, the best days are yet to come, and never ever give up. Until the speaker becomes entangled in your particular circumstances, what they say is mostly meaningless. Historically, not everyone pulls through okay in the end, so how would the YouTube person know about me individually? But when someone who has every reason to give up on you, knows what is happening, and still tells you to keep on keeping on because there is hope, then it means something!
That one conversation served as food of encouragement over the course of the following weeks. My life was completely different because one person spoke words of encouragement directly to me regarding a very specific issue. Months later, I continue to be revived by what was said. There have been times it was the only thing keeping me going, but it is enough to give me peace and motivation every single time.
I took the advice given to me that day and clung to it for dear life. I focused on long obedience in the same direction and I didn’t give up. As it turned out, my thinking coach was right about everything. I learned firsthand a valuable lesson about the power of encouragement. But not just any encouragement, more specifically, encouragement that is pointly directed. Generalized encouragement is useless, but pertinent encouragement is priceless.
“The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstances.” ~ Martha Washington
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” ~ Solomon, King of Israel; Proverbs 12:25