According to Helen Keller, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Born without the ability to see and hear, Helen certainly faced trials that the vast majority of people will never have to encounter. The persistence of her work to communicate with other coupled with the incredible dedication by her teacher Anne Sullivan allowed for Helen to learn to communicate via reading people’s lips with her hands. Keller eventually went on to become the first blind-deaf person to graduate with a bachelor’s of arts degree.
Encouraging words have the ability to transform a person’s life for the better. Although the inspiration Anne Sullivan is beautiful and rare, the power of encouragement applies to all situations large or small and regardless of era. During my struggles transitioning to my new job, the patience and inspiring advice of my supervisor afford me a great opportunity to succeed. Willingness to change, desire to get better is essential for a successful and joy-filled life. However, without the nourishment of the soil of encouragement all the will-power to get better will not allow us to grow and actualize our full-potential.
Anxiety pervades modern man daily—even hourly. Knowing that kind encouragement contains transformative power allows us to step forward with our day, the next step involves specific ways to put encouragement into action. I listed a couple easy and manageable tips to nourish yourself and ultimately pass on the hope of encouragement to people you meet on a daily basis.
1. Surround Yourself with Help: Jesus put forth the Golden Rule to love others as you love yourself. On face value, this should be self-explanatory, however the world we live in today tends to focus on self-love as giving into immediate pleasures and short-term successful at the expense of long-term rewards and true virtue. Without possessing authentic love for oneself, it may be difficult to in turn love others as oneself. Surround yourself with people who struggled similar paths of discouragement as you, but who overcame it— the saints! According to Saint John Vianney, “The saints did not all begin well, but they ended well.” I am always encouraged that despite the rough start of many holy ones, such as St. Paul or St. Augustine, they eventually learned to be selfless instead of self-centered. Learn about the saints by diving into their writings or reading a biography about their lives.
2. Look for Opportunities: Instead of looking for the perfect opportunity to encourage someone, simplify the process—notice people who struggle in any capacity: at work, home, on the street, in the park, and during your errand-running. A simple example that came to mind was when I saw the stress and worry on a fast-food worker’s face as I pulled up to the drive-thru. Due to the insane busyness of the extended dinner rush and lack of staffing I could tell the front-drive worker needed encouragement. Looking him in the eyes as I ordered, I gave a simple, but genuine reply after getting my food, “Thank you! I hope your day slows down a bit for you. You are doing a good job.”
3. Action, Action, Action: After getting into a habit of becoming more aware of people who need encouragement, the last step is to act. Do not act for the sake of feeling good for yourself. Act with genuine heart and attitude. Simple gestures like a smile, greeting someone in the morning/afternoon, and recognizing small things that went well that day are introductory steps towards towards transforming others through encouragement.
Not exactly knowing how I would close this topic on encouragement, in an odd sense I needed some reassurance. Just as I was able to attempt to write this final paragraph I heard a cry come from my 2 year-old’s bedroom. Normally, I would pause or mosey up the stairs in hopes that my wife would get me son—my secret motive included the expectation that this would buy me extra time to complete a post!
Instead, I immediately left my desk and rushed upstairs to rock my son until he went back to sleep. The words of Oscar Wilde almost immediately came to mind as I often struggle to leave a project unfinished, especially near the end, “What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” Certainly, maybe not considered a bitter trial, the angst I get stopping and restarting writing is very real. However, I realized that my wife had a long day parenting three active children who did not nap all the while being pregnant to top it off! I knew of the encouraging power of sacrificing my time would allow her to sleep uninterrupted. Resolve to reassurance at least one person a day this week—move forward with the transforming power of encouragement!
“God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”