Encouragement goes straight to the heart. In fact, the word itself comes from a combination of the prefix en which means "to put into" and the Latin root cor which means "heart". Knowing what a big difference encouragement makes in your own life, what can you do to help others to take heart when the going gets tough and the way feels long?
1. Learn individuals' "love languages," the special ways in which they feel most valued. In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains that not everyone's emotional needs are met in the same way, and that it's important to learn to speak others' love languages. The five love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
2. If an encouraging thought comes to mind, share it! It may not have the same effect if you wait. Don't let shyness hold you back. Instead, form a new habit: "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today…" Hebrews 3:13
3. When you introduce someone, add a few words of praise for the person's abilities, accomplishments, about how they've helped you or about the nature of your relationship. It's encouraging to be praised in front of others.*
4. Send flowers. A surprise delivery makes any occasion or accomplishment feel more momentous, and is a tangible sign that you are thinking of someone even when they're not around.
5. When someone is discouraged or hurting, offer specific, practical help. If you ask, "How can I help?" the person might be at a loss to answer. It's better to ask, "Would it help if I…" or say, "I would like to…"
6. Update your address book. In a digital world, there's nothing like receiving a hand-written note in the mail.
7. Remind fellow Christians of the specific promises of God and characteristics of God. We may know something with our mind, but need to be reminded in our heart. The Apostle Peter wrote, "I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have." 2 Peter 1:12
8. Write someone a note to tell them that you're praying for them. Tell them what you're praying. You can pray specific Scriptures for individuals such as Romans 15:13, "[I pray that] the God of hope [will] fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
9. Make celebration a more regular part of your relationships. Celebrate others' victories, large and small with a note, coffee together, a special meal, a congratulatory phone call, or just a high-five!
10. Be specific when you offer words of praise; it makes your encouragement more credible and concrete: "You did a great job at…", "I really appreciate that you…", "I was really impressed that you…"
11. Encourage other believers with a reminder of Christ's coming. It redirects our thinking to an eternal perspective and ultimate deliverance from the sin and death. "We who are still alive and are left will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." 1 Thessalonians 5:17b-18
12. Realize the power of presence. Just being there can be encouraging! When you're with others, you're telling them that they're important. The Apostle Paul closed his letter to the church at Colossae promising to send his friend Tychius "that he may encourage your hearts." Colossians 4:8b
13. If you're part of a church, Bible study or fellowship, be committed to showing up. Your presence encourages others that they are part of a community of faith and that they are not alone. That's why the writer of Hebrews says, "Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as we see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25
14. If someone you know is working on a large project, send her a single flower to encourage her at the beginning of the project, and a full bouquet when it's done.*
15. Use encouragement as an outreach. If anyone should be known for being an encourager, it should be the Christian. Write a letter of appreciation to people at work, your apartment manager, your child's teacher, or your doctor. Often when we interact with these people, we are asking for their services. Take time just to say thank you!*
16. If you really want to encourage someone who gives you excellent service, write a letter of commendation to the person's boss.*
17. We could learn something from the way team athletes freely pat, touch and high-five each other in competition. Touch is a powerful encouragement. Be sure to be sensitive in this area, though. Ask someone if you can hug her first. And be careful to be above reproach with persons of the opposite sex.*
18. When you see someone making positive changes in their lives, affirm them. "You seem to have a really great attitude about…", "It may be that I'm just starting to take notice, but I see that you're…", "Do you think that you are becoming more…?"
19. Tell people how they've encouraged you!
Choose one or two items on this list to encourage someone in your life today!
Tips adapted from the book, 52 Simple Ways to Encourage Others, by C.E. Rollins, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1995.