It’s Free!

It is the need of every human heart; a driving force compelling us to action, influencing our decisions, and intensifying our emotions.

It is the universal longing for encouragement.

We often think of encouragement as an act of kindness, which is part of inspiring others; but I see encouragement as a gift to be given. Our need for the gift is never clearer than when tragedy strikes. When calamity comes and crisis knocks the wind from our sails—and we’re no longer able to perform or accomplish or reach our goals—this single gift remains invaluable. It breathes life back into our souls, shines light into our darkness, and leaves hope in place of despair.

It is the gift of encouragement.

Make it a priority to give away encouragement THROUGHOUT this coming year. Here’s how a modern dictionary defines encourage: “to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope.”[ref]Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster), “Encourage.”[/ref] But I like the way an older version defines the word: “to give courage to; to give or increase confidence of success; to inspire with courage, spirit, or strength of mind; to embolden; to animate; to incite; to inspirit.” This dictionary even gives a biblical example from Deuteronomy 3:28—“But charge Joshua, and encourage him.”[ref]Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), “Encourage.”[/ref]

In Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay it Forward, Trevor McKinney, a twelve-year-old boy, decides to change the world. He doesn’t invent a life-altering machine. He doesn’t cure cancer. Nor does he give away billions of dollars to end world hunger. His plan is simpler than that—simplistic some might say. He performs good works for three different people every day without expecting anything in return. All he asks in return is that they do the same for three people in their lives.

This past year, I have needed to be encouraged more than any other year of my life. Nothing else could fill the voids, the lack of confidence, and the feelings of failure I was carrying. I will tell you: those close to me offered in abundance the priceless gift of encouragement. They renewed hope, inspired forgotten dreams, and replaced doubt with fervent courage. I did not deserve their boundless, limitless, gracious gifts of courage and strength, but their words helped me through the depth of despair.

Now, it’s your turn. My prayer for each of you is that you would speak words of inspiration to one person each day. Start there. There are 365 days ahead of you next year. And 365 words of encouragement will cost you nothing. Who knows, you just might change the world with a word of encouragement.

Do you need a jump start on some ideas? Try these in the coming year:

  1. I admire your strength to press on.
  2. I have no doubt you will do the right thing; I see strength of character in you.
  3. You inspire me.
  4. Thank you for holding my hand.
  5. Your authentic faith refreshes my soul.
  6. What a great job.
  7. I applaud you.
  8. You light up the room with joy.
  9. Your grace is amazing.
  10. God put you in my life to show me how to love.

Encouragement—it’s a free and invaluable gift.