Encouraging the Heart – How to Build Up and Speak Life!

Encouragement - Become who you are

Our hearts broken, burdened, or bored. Our hearts need encouragement. This post explores what it means to encourage the heart and begins a conversation about how to live that out as leaders, colleagues, and friends.  

Build Up and Speak Life

I believe that every person on God’s green Earth has innate value and was created with purpose and has vibrant potential to be successful in that purpose. However, we have the tendency to allow relationships and circumstances to derail our life journey and burden us away from the excellence we can achieve. We need people in our lives who can speak life into us and encourage our hearts to persevere and enjoy life.  

A couple leadership gurus named James Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote a great book called “Encourage the Heart” which provides great insights into how we can build up and speak life into those around us – especially those under our leadership.  

The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart.” To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart.

Kouzes & Posner - Encouraging the Heart (pg. xv) Tweet

The Impact of Encouragement

Every person in your life has a heart that needs encouragement. As a leader, you have the opportunity to serve others by giving or your heart “so that others may fully develop and experience their own” (Intro – xvi). People need to be affirmed for who they are the potential that is within them. They need to hear that their unique contribution is noticed, appreciated, and valued. Providing that does not require much of you, but can be life changing for the individual receiving the encouragement.   

Studies featured in the book provide evidence of the results of genuine, regular recognition and encouragement. People perform better and live happier lives when they regularly affirmed for their life and work.  

Use Names and Say Thank You

I have developed a habit that every time I go to a store or event where people wear name tags – I address them by their first name. When we go out to a restaurant, we ask the waiter or waitress for their name and aim to use it when they take our orders and refill our drinks. Often people are surprised when I use their names but I can usually recognize that they appreciate it. Try it out yourself and demonstrate to people that you recognize them as individuals and that they matter.  

I also try to say “thank you” whenever others serve me. It may be the waitress’s job to refill my water, but I can still demonstrate appreciation for her service. It isn’t difficult to thank your co-worker for the tasks they completed, or thank your spouse for grocery shopping or doing the laundry, or thank your boss for the opportunity to work for them. It isn’t difficult – but it is very impactful.  

The secret is this: we all really do want to be loved.

Kouzes & Posner - Encouraging the Heart (pg. 11) Tweet

Featured Photo

Image has a Creative Commons license. It was posted on Flickr by user “craftivist collective” and can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/42839495@N07/6237667320

Reference

Kouzes, James and Barry Posner. Encouraging the Heart – A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others. The Leadership Challenge, 2003. 

Link to Purchase

Further Encouragement!

Read this post for more encouragement – Strength through Encouragement

Strength through Encouragement

Encouragement

Many may think that they don’t need encouragement in order to perform at their best. “I got this! I can buckle down and get it done without encouragement!” But then we always appreciate when people recognize and affirm our hard work, personal growth, or other achievements. It does not show weakness to give or receive encouragement – but it does take some courage! 

It takes a strong leader to be a good encourager. We receive strength through encouragement to excel in our journey in work and personal life and perform at our best.  

Motivating through Affirmation

Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called The 5 Love Languages in which he explains that each of us give and receive love in different ways. I find that my primary love language is affirmation – as it is for many others – so I thrive off hearing encouraging words from my wife, family, colleagues and friends.  

Dr. Chapman (with Paul White) also wrote a book called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace in which he takes the Love Languages concept and applies it to the workplace. As I read that book, I found that I am motivated by the cause/mission of the organization and through affirmation for my work.  

“We believe that people in the workplace need to feel appreciated in order for them to enjoy their job, do their best work, and continue working over the long haul.” (27)

“Appreciation, when expressed in the primary appreciation language of the individual, tends to motivate each team member to reach his or her potential. When we feel appreciated, we are motivated to “climb higher.” Conversely, without appreciation, we often settle into mediocre performance, often far below our level of capability.” (117-118)

Many of us could learn a lesson from these wise words and consider how we can motivate others around us through encouraging words of affirmation. Figure out what somebody does well or how they are growing as a person and affirm them through a specific word of encouragement. Look for the positive in others and build them up so they can reach their potential and become stronger versions of themselves. 

Barnabas :: A Classic Example of Encouragement

There is a story in the Bible where a man named Saul was the primary antagonist against the early Christian movement. He was committed to bringing them down through intimidation, persecution, and imprisonment. Then, he had an encounter with Jesus and made a drastic 180-degree switch to becoming a committed Christian and promoter of their message.

As you can imagine, some of the leaders in the Christian movement were skeptical of his heart change and resisted his involvement in their community and ministry. However, a brave, generous man nicknamed Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”) was willing to put his reputation on the line to trust Saul (renamed as Paul), vouch for him, and encourage the other leaders to accept him as a genuine follower.  

Building up a "Failure"

Later in the story, Barnabas gave another Christian (named Mark) a second chance after he had abandoned them on a journey. Barnabas obviously encouraged Mark and helped him mature because some years later he became the author of the Gospel According to Mark. The unique encouragement of Barnabus to build up a young man who had made a major blunder led to the writing of (arguably) one of the more important pieces of literature ever written.  

Barnabas was not a leading, central character – but he built a great legacy by giving strength through encouragement.

Application Questions:

  • When you get encouragement, does it help you perform at a higher level?
  • If you are a leader (and we all are), are you looking for ways to encourage and build up those whom you lead?
  • Think of ways that you can be brave (like Barnabas) to encourage someone who is recovering from something wrong they have done or from a failure in life?

Reference:

Chapman, Gary and Paul White. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Northfield Publishing, IL. 2011.

About the Photo

My wife and I went to New Zealand in 2013. It was a phenomenal trip! This photo was taken on the South Island near Mount Cook at the south end of Lake Tekapo at the Church of the Good Shepherd

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy this one about recognizing other individuals for who they truly are: Shift to See the Other.

Finding Community During COVID

Community

.Virtually every American (and nearly every human on the planet!) has been forced to adjust to find community during COVID in different ways. Whether you are introvert or extrovert – we all have an internal craving for relationships and shared experiences with others within a community.  

It may provoke you to ask the questions of:  

  • Why do we crave community and feel that something is missing in our lives without it? 
  • What are the different ways that we find community? 
  • How do we find community when all our normal, traditional places of community are closed or empty?

Why Do We Crave Community?

As with any fundamental “why” question, there are various views on this topic. I believe that each of us were created with this internal craving for belonging and friendship because our Creator knows that is best for humanity. We become better versions of ourselves while we are in community but become unhappy, apathetic, and (usually) unproductive without it.  

Each of us is born with different personalities, gifts, and talents – so we naturally have strengths and limitations. If it was just me (or everyone was just like me), then there would be nobody to compliment my limitations and, therefore, provide a complete picture of humanity. We are a beautiful harmony of unified diversity when we are in community – not a single staccato note or a clanging cymbal.  

We can all agree on this: We desire to love and be loved in return. This can only happen through relationships found within a community. 

The Third Place

Most of us have a first place (the home/family) and a second place (the workplace) but tend to desire a place where we can relax with familiar people in a familiar place and laugh while engaging in interesting conversations. We are envious as we watch shows like Cheers and Friends as they find unique community in a bar or coffee shop. These local places of community have become known as “the third place.”  

In 1989, a German sociologist named Ray Oldenburg wrote a book called The Great Good Place where he coined the term “third place.” We find community in these third places because we feel accepted and they encourage and inspire us to become better versions of ourselves.  

Coffee Shop Community
Coffee Shop in Ethiopia

Personally, I am fortunate to have several third places. I find this community through my church, a men’s small group, a weekly soccer game, and the co-working space where I work (Work Hub).  

This Psychology Today article and this Wikipedia page help provide more context on Oldenburg’s concepts and more explanation of third places. 

The COVID Pandemic Challenges Community

But what do you do when your typical third place is closed due to a global pandemic!?  

I went through several phases during this pandemic – and I get the feeling others had a similar experience. At first, it welcoming to stay home and spend more time with my family and get more projects done around the house. But then I began to really miss my friendships and started calling them and encouraging Zoom meetings. But then… I just needed to get out(!!) and be with people and get back to my third places.  

Community in a Solitaire App Game

I did, however, find a unique community in a most unexpected place. I had gotten a new phone and, of course, it came loaded with the promotional apps that you didn’t ask for. One of those apps was a game called “Solitaire” by GSN. I got in there and played a few games and thought it would be an entertaining and slightly challenging leisure game. But then I got invited into a club (which I didn’t know was a thing) called “Texas Four” and introduced to this special group of people from all over the United States and Canada.

They love each other. It is a special thing to experience. On the simple chat-board, they check in every day with encouragement, personal stories, prayer requests, you name it. They play for each other and encourage the team every day. I am usually in the bottom with points within the game – but I’m still encouraged along by the club.  

To the Texas Four club members – Thank you for providing a unique community during this pandemic season. I wish the best for each of you (app names) – Wanderer, Squig, Shuffles, Gran/Wa, JayRay, Jim, Mrs. Bullit, Cara, Kristine, Suemac, Cards, Sun, Turtle, Rawr, KrAzY d, Supercool, Donkey mom – and the rest. Play on!

Solitaire App - Texas Four Club
Solitaire Tripeaks by GSN

Questions to Consider:

  • Why is community meaningful and necessary for you? 
  • How did you find community during the COVID Pandemic? 
  • What do you think we can learn from my story of the Texas Four solitaire club?  

Photos in the post: 

Featured photo: This was taken of me, my wife, and a group of friends in a coffee shop in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 2015. 

Inset photo: I took this photo in 2011 when I went to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A local took me to an old coffee shop which explained how coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia.