The Power of Encouragement

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Yellow flowers.  The pot in a yellow cellophane wrapping.  It is singing spring to my soul.  An unexpected gift of encouragement.

A note expressing excitement about a project I’m working on.  The desire to procrastinate lessens.  My heart feels encouraged.  She believes in me, maybe I do too.  Encouragement, whether words or action, is a gift we give others.

I was having a conversation the other night with a group of women about encouragement.  We all have a common bond which is the basis for the group, but I don’t know any of these women personally.  It is online which is a new thing for me.  It’s taken me a while to get used to the whole concept.  I really like it!

The irony?  We talked about encouragement and how we could encourage the significant others in our lives.  Do you know what happened?  I walked away from that chat, feeling uplifted, inspired and understood.  We realized we really weren’t that different from one another.  We laughed at each other’s typos.  There was the sense that we were all there for one another and that encouraged me.  These are all small things.  They pay big dividends.  For both the giver and the recipient.  I was blessed to be the recipient this week.  I’ve been on the other end too.  Either way, you walk away feeling good about yourself, about God and about life in general.

This morning I was thinking about some advice I received in counseling a few years back.  “Let yourself off the hook,” she told me.  I thought about it again today and I think our perfectionism keeps us from accepting or giving encouragement.

It’s a simple yet profound little piece of advice. Letting myself off the hook doesn’t mean taking away all responsibility.  It’s prioritizing it.

My house isn’t great. Supper last night consisted of boxed meat and bagged fries.  It’s okay.  My boys are still being fed.  They won’t eat anything healthy at the moment anyway. (I’m taking myself off the hook for that too. Enough already of stressing about it!)  They have been hugged and kissed everyday.  The cleaning will still be there tomorrow and the next day too.

We’ve had family time around those boxed meals.  Listening to the injustice of a kid’s world and trying to make sense of it all.  Answered questions about every subject under the sun.  We haven’t done that perfectly either by the way.  Sometimes a stray electronic device may pop up.  Eyes glass over as the same tale is told for the hundredth time.

I’ve spent so many years desperate, fearful and joyless because I thought it had to be a certain way or my kids were doomed.  I thought I had to do this or that or I’d miss out on my purpose.  It all rested on me.  So as I’ve learned to “let myself off the hook”, I have experienced freedom in so many ways, but one in particular is to encourage and to let myself receive it.

If you are striving for some kind of perfection in your life, do yourself a favour and “let yourself off the hook”.  To all those mammas and daddys out there; be encouraged.  It does not all rest on you.  It’s not about being perfect.  It’s doing our best (best does not equal perfect) but letting the rest go.  Sometimes our best is giving our kids fishy crackers for lunch and sitting on the couch.  ALL.DAY.

My experience, as I’ve taken myself less seriously and let myself be human, is I’ve noticed that encouragement doesn’t bounce off my rigid self anymore.  It doesn’t feel like a lie.  Instead it seeps through me, lifting up my soul.

It also flows more freely from me too.  I’m not afraid to tell someone that colour looks fabulous on them.  I’m freed up to encourage them in their efforts instead of being territorial.  I can give without analyzing seventy different ways it might be perceived!  Because the perfect meter has been turned off.  The hook ripped out of the wall.  And yellow flowers fill my being with their brilliance, with their encouragement.

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