With the holiday season now officially underway, messages abound encouraging us to be generous. We are to be generous with our talents, helping others in need and lending a helping hand. We are to be generous with our treasure, giving special gifts to special people, and donating resources to meaningful charities and ministries that participate in good causes. But what often gets neglected is the important need to be generous with our loving words.
For whatever reason, the thought of complimenting another human being sends some into an existential crisis. Perhaps it is the competitive nature of our society, but there is this sense that if we are too abundant in our praise that somehow we will be giving up some of our power. What a shame. To be fair, there are some individuals who are so free with their praise that a recipient might question the sincerity of the praise. But aren’t we called to be generous with our praise? Shouldn’t we err on the side of being overly encouraging? Excessive with our praise?
Scripture instructs us to do just that. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,” Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. “Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). So why do some struggle with it? Why is it so difficult? It shouldn’t be. This world is tough enough. Each day will bring challenges and obstacles that often test our very limits. Just a little “lift” goes a long way. We need that community to “bear one another burdens” (Gal 6:2). We need those extra lifts in a day, whether it’s the “like” of a Facebook post, a smile at the post office, or a note to a friend complimenting her on her beautiful Christmas decorations. It simply is not difficult. But sadly, too often its easier to criticize than to praise.
Don’t fall into this trap. No matter who you are, we all enjoy a little encouragement. And it’s so easy. How difficult is it to yell out to a neighbor as you’re walking by that his yard looks terrific. Or how taxing is it to tell your loved one that he or she simply looks stunning in that outfit. Are we really so egocentric that we are afraid that by lifting someone else up, we are in some way sinking down? This is not what God intends for us.
So I challenge you this holiday season (and beyond) to be generous with our encouragement. Take that extra step to pat someone on the back and tell them they’ve done a great job; send an email to a friend thanking them for their friendship; compliment a loved one on their new hairstyle. Perhaps challenge yourself to do this at least once each day of Advent. I assure you, it will change how you feel.