The Courage to Encourage

Personality Tests. I was “exposed” to them (as most of us are) from a young age – from elementary school through high school and college; from Myers Briggs to Strengthsfinder to Jung; from free online tests to $1000 scams promising to reveal my life purpose.

For the most part, I believe they helped in my overall self-awareness and understanding why I do some of the things I do.

Although many elements of my personality (and therefore, test results) changed as I grew older, one “result” would always remain constant: my ability or gift as an encourager.

A Boring Gifting?

I remember always getting incredibly disappointed over the results and feeling like somewhat of a failure.

For a long time, I would look at that word and cringe – “What a boring role… it’s the behind-the-scenes job for people who can’t do anything else.”

I would question God and ask him why He didn’t have something bigger and better for me. In other words, I wanted to be involved in the front-stage stuff; I wanted to be in the limelight… at least I thought I did.

It didn’t help when my friends and others would tell me I was a great encourager; that my words held great power to uplift and inspire.

It didn’t help that deep down, I felt the closest to God and most in my “element” when I encouraged others – either through hand written cards or baking for them to cheer them up.

I envied others who seemed to have more “limelight” roles. I would compare myself to everyone else instead of giving thanks, accepting, and making the best of my God-given gift of encouragement.

Ironically, I would also get told I had leadership characteristics which compounded the angst I had about a role I didn’t want to have.

Real Leadership

I used to think being a leader meant being in the spotlight whilst being an encourager was someone who just sat behind the scenes and pushed the leaders. But in fact, John Maxwell says that encouragement is 51% of leadership!

The truth is, leadership is not determined by how much you are in the limelight, but more about the sphere of your influence – in other words, how good of a leader we are is determined by how much we use our gifts to impact that sphere of influence. For me, that means using my gift of encouragement to lead behind the scenes.

Everyone needs encouragement – the ones that look like they have it all together, the ones that look like they have enough encouragement to last a lifetime, and obviously the ones that look like they need a hug. In fact, it was the encouragement from others rather than leadership from them that kept me going and enabled me to break free.

Encouragement Gives Life

I remember when I was in the grips of the eating disorder and felt like I couldn’t get through another day but a simple encouraging text would keep me going. I remember feeling so ugly and alien when I was mere skin-and-bone, but that simple smile from a passer-by would remind me I was loved and accepted by the one who mattered. I remember feeling so worthless and stuck in bondage and how a note from my dad would remind me that freedom was possible.

It’s so easy to overlook that person we know needs a hug, to ignore than inner prompting to go out of our way to help a friend in need of an encouraging word, to focus on what others may think as opposed to stepping out in faith, to concentrate on our needs and busy lives as opposed to taking some time to write a card or buy a gift for someone who has had a bad week.

I tell myself that if all it takes is a smile, a card, or a verse – that is a small price to pay for an act that could really turn someone’s day (or even life) around. Remember, the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21) implying that words hold a great significance.

Today, why not step out of your comfort zone and encourage someone? After all, we are told to “encourage and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and have been empowered by God to do so! Instead of looking at encouragement (or any gift you are blessed with) as some sort of “background” job, be encouraged that your gift is God’s gift to you…. And what you do with it is your gift to God!

About Nicole Friets. Although she is actually half American, Nicole Friets considers herself a true blue Singaporean as she has lived there her entire life. She recently graduated from University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Arts (specializing in languages/ life coaching/ religion). Good workouts and sunny days uplift her and she believes there is no such thing as too much Disney, salmon sashimi, or love. Read Nicole’s posts here.

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