The Duke of Wellington, the British military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, was not an easy man to serve under. He was brilliant, demanding, and not one to shower his subordinates with compliments. Yet even Wellington realized that his methods left something to be desired. In his old age, a young lady asked him what, if anything, he would do differently if he had his life to live over again. Wellington thought for a moment, then replied, “I’d give more praise.”
Much like Wellington, our society does a lot more tearing down than building up. After all, what percentage of the evening news is dedicated to uplifting stories? How many political commercials focus on the positive accomplishments of the candidate rather than the negative qualities of his or her opponent? How many people in the workplace talk about the good aspects of their jobs rather than all the people and things they don’t like? And how many church members complain about all they don’t like rather than acknowledging all that God is doing in their midst?
Obviously, there are times when we need to evaluate and critique others. Yet our criticisms often far outweigh our praise. Words like these are not shared often enough—“way to go,” “good job,” “I appreciate you,” “you’re doing great,” “I thank God for you,” and “well done.”
We are not called to be phony or to try to create a utopia where one doesn’t exist, but as Christians, we are called to be encouragers. The Bible is quite clear when it says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thess. 5:11). God would love for all of us to excel in encouragement, and our world drastically needs it.
I once read it takes seven positive statements to cancel out one critical comment. If we’re going build healthy relationships and be the kind of people God desires, we must all learn to grow in this area.
We all need to receive encouragement, and we all need to give it. And, by the way, if we find we’re down and a little discouraged because we are not receiving encouragement, we might consider this: “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25). It all begins with us.