It’s easy to tear people down, criticize them, degrade their basic humanity, and try to turn them into outcasts. In today’s hyper-negative American culture, it’s helpful to mentally step back, take a few deep breaths, and ponder some encouraging thoughts.
When we reminisce about people who made a meaningful difference in our lives we think of the parent who praised an accomplishment, the teacher who cultivated your dreams, the spouse or lover who saved your relationship, the leader who inspired the best aspects of a nation. The common feature of these people has been their ability to encourage us towards a hopeful, brighter future by pointing out our present strengths.
The best encouragement does not take the form of empty platitudes nor Internet memes. We are touched by sincere compliments spoken face to face or hand written as a note. Such reassurance enhanced our lives by giving us much needed moral support to express our highest qualities. It was not flattery, but honest, specific encouragement that we remember most.
I had the good fortune to work for excellent companies. The managers and supervisors I remember most fondly are those who sincerely reminded the staff that employees are the company’s greatest assets. Management did not rule us with threats and power-plays. The best bosses provided positive reinforcement, and honest rewards. They reminded us that we were integral to the company’s mission. They boosted our sense of self-worth and value to the company.
The best leaders deeply understand that everybody needs encouragement. When a family, a company, and a nation is fortunate to have a wise leader, everyone is changed for the better by her or his encouragement.
These words are not new nor especially profound. However, with the criminality and self-serving cynicism of the day, we easily forget that we can take the high road and provide encouragement to ourselves and especially to people we encounter each day. When we cultivate the habit to enliven it becomes second nature.
Perhaps one of the most valuable actions we can do is to become an advocate for minorities who are denigrated by our politicians and other influential popular figures. Positive, active support enables inspired lives all around. People who understand and provide encouragement know the true value of win-win scenarios. Inclusion, not exclusion, enables a strong community.
Encouragement is much more than praise. Encouragement is most effective when one takes an interest in other people. We can discover the values of others and why they strive to do the things they do. Authentic concern and support of others is more powerful than simple praise by many orders of magnitude. Of course, sincere praise, when warranted, is nice, too.
Sometimes I end a blog post with the word “namaste'”. This word is intended to provide encouragement. The word is a Hindu term that states, “I bow to the divine in you.” In effect this is used to express gratitude and encouragement for your kindness. By the way, you can interpret “divine” in the spiritual or the secular sense according to your preference.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes educator/author Daisaku Ikeda. “In the past, human society provided encouragement and opportunity for people to extend support to each other, especially in highly stressful situations.”