Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. —Ephesians 4:29
I was working at my computer desk when Mom entered the room, carrying something under her arm. When she laid it in front of me, my eyes widened at the sight of the bag. It was small, it was green, and it was emblazoned with my favorite emblem: B&N.
Earlier in the day, we had been discussing a subject that she knew I was passionate about. As we talked, she made a mental note to stop by Barnes & Nobles to purchase a book on the topic for me. The inside cover was filled with her slanted hand, taking gracious note of improvements in my character, encouraging me to stay the course, and articulating her confidence in God’s purpose for my life. I was teary at the end of it.
That day, I had been feeling overwhelmed and incompetent for the tasks ahead of me. Mom’s words accomplished a powerful three-fold effect: I was inspired, convicted, and motivated at once.
That was three years ago. I haven’t re-read it since, but I remember the content of the letter perfectly.
That’s the power of encouragement.
I have to ask myself: If the effect of encouragement upon me is so profound, why aren’t I utilizing this power more in the lives of others?
Criticism, unlike encouragement, is reflexive for me. On any given day, anyone who really knows me (especially my sisters and parents) could fairly point out a dozen of my sins, faults, and weaknesses. And on any given day, I could just as easily expose their sins. For some reason it feels necessary to point out the obvious—
You’re in an awful mood.
Stop being so rude.
Someone’s grumpy today.
Little comments. Yes. But I’ve been thinking, what’s the root heart condition behind all unloving criticism?
Jonathan Edwards nailed me:
“The spiritually proud person shows it in his finding fault with other saints… [he is] quick to discern and take notice of their deficiencies.”
Then he goes on to repeat 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
On this verse, Matthew Henry commented, “The eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts. Pure Christian humility causes a person to take notice of everything that is good in others, to make the best of it and to diminish their failings.”
It’s so simple. Encouragement stems from a humble heart; criticism stems from a proud heart. When I’m viewing myself rightly—through the lens of the cross—my pride is forced to wither on the spot. And as we receive His grace, the overflow of our hearts—our words—will naturally give “grace to those who hear” as well.
Questions for Discussion:
- Are you more quick to point out the sins of fellow believers or to notice the fruit of the Spirit in their lives? Why?
- Practically speaking, how can we become more encouraging women? What methods of encouragement have you found especially powerful?
- How does focusing on the gospel change our pride?
- What keeps you from encouraging others more often?