I have a secret file that I keep on my computer. I know that makes me sound a bit like a CIA operative working on top secret missions. (I cannot confirm or deny this). Admittedly, I have a pretty good cover. A married mother of two who writes about Jesus, hangs out with cats, and moonlights for the government while wearing yoga pants and a sweatshirt. You can’t make this stuff up. Or, can you?
Anyway, back to reality. I have this file that I keep on my computer labeled “encouragement.” I know you thought it was going to say “delusions of a Christian writer,” but it doesn’t. It simply reads encouragement. If you were to open it, you would find emails I saved from people who took the time to tell me how my writing touched them. I am not sure what compelled me to start it. (Maybe because I was consumed with self-doubt, terrified that the vulnerabilities I shared would humiliate myself and my family, and perhaps, worse of all, that I was leaving a paper trail of evidence supporting an extended stay in a mental health facility. You know, just your small, everyday concerns). When I would get an email of appreciation or encouragement, it made me feel less alone, braver, and best of all, that I was making a difference. I cherish them. Each kindness feels like a gift from God, encouragement made holy through the sacred gift of love in which it was made. Deleting them felt akin to throwing a fresh bouquet of flowers in the trash. I couldn’t do it. So, I started my secret file, a hoarder of happy words.
Even now, it is hard to convey how strongly I believe in the power of encouragement. Genuine encouragement isn’t just a platitude of politeness. It’s a sincere sentiment that lets someone else know that what you’re doing matters. They see you. They support you. They believe in you. I have been the beneficiary of this benevolence. The smallest kindnesses have carried me on dark days when defeat marched toward me like an anthem of doubt. Encouragement gave me the strength to keep going, to believe in myself, and to endure. The power of a few simple words did that for me and they can do that for anyone. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, we all need encouragement. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
We live in a busy world. Too often we forget the impact we have on other people’s lives. We don’t think that a few small words of acknowledgment make that much of a difference. We can’t always see how others cherish our kindnesses. We don’t always know that someone else files our words of encouragement on their computers and in their hearts. We may never know the extent to which a simple pause in our day to share love becomes an impetus for it to spread beyond what we will ever see.
When you understand the impact encouragement can have in spreading good in the world, it’s hard to keep it a secret – even for the best CIA agent.
What ways have encouragement made a difference in your life?
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