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What is Encouragement?
As you can see below, encouragement, encompasses many other values in the other person: it energizes, emboldens, strengthens, revives, reassures, brightens up, cheers up, galvanizes, optimises, etc.
BIBLICAL WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
The Scripture abounds in numerous references which encourages us as well as exhorts us to be persons capable of encouraging one another. Given below are just a few random reminders from the Bible on how the Lord Himself encourages us:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
The Bible is also quite clear on the familial responsibility we have towards encouraging each other:
Hebrews 13:1 - Let brotherly love continue.
Ephesians 4:31-32 - Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ
Romans 15:2 - Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 - Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Hebrews 10:24-25 - And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Peter 4:8-10 - Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.
JESUS – An Encouraging Personality
Undoubtedly, Jesus was the greatest disciple-maker ever! One of the things that Jesus used in the disciple-making process that we’d do well to do ourselves, is to use encouragement when making disciples. Multiple times in the New Testament we’re told to encourage one another. There’s a great reason for this. Encouragement builds up and ultimately leads to the person being discipled fully embracing their identity in Christ. Jesus seemed to use three types of encouragement when disciple-making:
Encouragement to move forward in Faith – In Matthew 14 Jesus comes walking on water. He approaches his disciples who had gone ahead of Him in the boat. When Peter sees Jesus he cries out, ““Lord, if it’s You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus encourages Peter to move forward by simply stating, “Come!” Scripture then goes on to describe what Peter did. Disciple makers who aid those they’re discipling to become mature disciples don’t keep them in their comfort zones, they encourage them to move into dangerous places in faith. So also, we need to encourage one another to be creative and innovative in our mission.
Encouragement to embrace a new identity – Matthew 16 describes a moment in time when Jesus called Simon by his new name, Peter. Jesus identified Peter as the rock on which His Church would be founded.” Jesus revealed Peter’s new identity. Peter, a man who was once blatantly and outrageously spastic in his ideas and actions, went on to lead the early Church! Jesus gave Peter a new identity and this encouraged Peter to have a transformed perspective of himself and his role in the Kingdom of God.
This master-disciple type of encouragement is something that even we Salesians can imitate in our day to day lives in the mission as well as in the community. This kind of encouragement is a must as none of us will ever escape from the daily problems and anomalies of our earthly life.
Don Bosco: An Inspiring Personality
Doubtless, no one in Christian annals, save the Good Shepherd Himself, was so naturally or so deeply loved by youth as Don Bosco. He possessed, it would seem, a singular grace from heaven in that regard. Utterly irresistible was the charm he held over little ones. A kind word, a gentle smile, even a mere glance from the Saint often was sufficient to capture the most calloused heart – so has said many an enchanted victim. This helps explain why the tiny Oratory of Saint Francis de Sales – the name Father John Bosco gave his band of urchin pupils – which humbly began on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1841, swelled week after week. Word of the kind and holy friend of all boys never stopped spreading to spiritually starved wanderers of Turin and beyond, who came in ever-increasing numbers to learn the beautiful truths and mysteries of the Catholic Faith. Saint John Bosco was totally devoted to his boys not just on Sundays, but every hour of every day! He would visit them on their jobs, nurse them in illness, counsel them in their problems, help them to find employment, beg for clothes and shoes to dress them, and in short, attend to their every need, spiritual and temporal. Most of all, he prayed for them endlessly.
Don Bosco lived a pastoral experience in his first Oratory which serves as a model; it was for the youngsters a home that welcomed, a parish that evangelized, a school that prepared them for life, and a playground where friends could meet and enjoy themselves. As we carry out our mission today, the Valdocco experience is still the lasting criterion for discernment and renewal in all our activities and works. [Constitution 40] The welcoming ‘home’ represents family, nurture, safety, community and belonging. The evangelising ‘parish’ represents prayer, liturgy, catechesis, sacraments and church. The life-engendering ‘school’ represents learning, development, skills, commitment and endeavour, the vibrant playground (the genius insight of Don Bosco) represents friendship, fun, activity, acceptance and mutuality. Thus, we can very clearly see that Don Bosco never lost hope in his youngsters and the youth themselves felt encouraged and reinvigorated in a Society which actually ignored them! Even today, there are numerous opportunities for the Salesian to be constantly encouraging and reassuring in his work with and of the young, just as Don Bosco did.
“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” These words of Martin Luther King Jr. remind us that we, the sons of Don Bosco should never be disheartened. We need to be like him. Because the youth are with us and there is always a future ahead. And as Abraham Lincoln said: "The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time." So, we just have to be sufficiently prepared for today.
Don Bosco knew how to combine a tender heart with great practical sense. Boys need love and boys need God. Yes, but they also need food, jobs, recreation, and wise guidance for the future. So, he wanted his Salesians to provide an integral education that helps a young person to earn a learning, become a responsible citizen and a caring spouse and parent, with concern for others and readiness to help. Faithful to the tradition of Saint John Bosco, the Salesian community is constantly challenged to reinterpret and re-enliven his enlightening vision in every generation and circumstance, according to the requirements of the contemporary situation and the needs of young people, to whom he once said: “I have only one wish: that you be happy in this world and the next”.
Some Practical Tips to become an Encouraging Person in the Community
At the very outset, we need to create a culture of encouragement! We need to become Salesians who are capable of encouragng others. Every confrere needs to encourage and to be encouraged! Where people step up is when there is room to move up! Given below are some common ways, for individual Salesians as well as for those in authority, by which we can encourage both our confreres and our collaborators in the day-to-day mission:
1. Recognize Their Strengths. Don't do anything on your own if it can be prevented but recognize your confreres’ strengths and allow them to participate as much as they can. Don't take their aptitudes for granted. Make it a point to talk individually with each member of your community to discuss their interests, strengths and skills and encourage them to take charge.
2. Let Others Make Important Decisions. If you are the leader or in a position to make decisions, if you allow your collaborators to make important decisions, you are encouraging them to come out of themselves. When they are empowered to make decisions that matter and can affect the mission, they see themselves as worthy collaborators.
3. Give Them More Responsibility. When you give a confrere or any of our lay collaborators more responsibility you are expressing faith in their abilities. The moment they take on more responsibility is the moment they can say, "Yes, I am stepping up." To make them feel a better sense of belonging, give them more to be accountable for and let them know the price of influence is responsibility.
4. Don't Impose Fear. If you want to encourage more confreres or others to bring out the best in themselves, you have to relate with them without imposing fear. Encouraging personalities inspire those around them. Therefore, surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives and establish a culture where they can even disagree with you without fear!
5. Trust Them. Trust is the glue that binds us together. To encourage confreres in our mission, we need to begin by trusting them, and the only way to do that is to overcome the need to be in constant control. We need to trust those guiding us as well as all those who are entrusted to our care.
6. Help Them Grow. Don't wait for confreres or collaborators to come to you, instead, you should approach them. Let them know what talent and qualities you see in them and help them see how they can utilize their gifts for their own personal growth as well as for the growth of the mission. The best way to encourage them is to show appreciation for who they are and help them just be themselves. Show that you believe in them and give them opportunities to prove you right.
7. Respect Them. People tend to step up when you show them respect. If you want to encourage them, first empower them by respecting them for who they are. The best leaders go out of their way to boost their members' self-esteem. This is very true even in our own communities. As John Maxwell stated, when people respect you as a person, they admire you; when they respect you as a friend, they love you; when they respect you as a leader, they follow you. Our Salesian structure is such that no one remains on the top forever! Therefore, all the more, why we need to respect and appreciate each and every member in the community.
8. Praise And Appreciate Them. If the actions of your confreres inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then they are your guiding stars! Appreciate them for who they are and praise them for their inspirational actions. Let them know how much their influence and stimulus mean to you and how they influence others. Helping to create a culture of encouragement is the ultimate expression of your own mission. And it's a legacy you can start building today.