I have never been a person who describes myself as having the gift of "encouragement." Though, I often try to encourage people, it just doesn't come as naturally to me as to other people. I am often struck, however, by the power of a positive encouraging word in someone's life.
I have been watching shows like American Idol, and the Voice, where people receive honest feedback, are often let down by harsh truths, or even feel left out because they weren't part of something they've been dreaming about their entire lives. One of the coaches on the Voice, after not hitting the button to turn his chair around, told the girl she was "pitchy," and then he said, "but, you're beautiful, so congratulations on that." I thought it was funny at first...I even laughed out loud. As I thought about that a little more, there were a couple of things that struck me. 1. He realized that he didn't want to completely crush her feelings by telling her the truth, so he stuck in a compliment, an encouragement. It probably would have felt like throwing a dagger, to just end his comment with "sorry we didn't pick you, it was pitchy." I completely understand that. 2. How often are our "encouragements" superficial? "You're beautiful." "Great hair." "Nice hat." Now I get that we want to comment on people's style, their look, but why can't we be more genuine with our encouragement? "I really like your hat" doesn't go as far as, "Wow! I'm really intrigued by your style." Or something that comments beyond the normal, everyday encouragement, and speaks of something deep within a person.
I'm always struck whenever I receive an encouragement that I never expected, or from someone that I never expected. I got a facebook message tonight from an old friend that went to elementary school with me. We also shared a workplace in high school, but I never would have expected to receive an encouragement from someone that I don't really interact with on a daily basis. It was wild, and it really meant a lot! Sure, he could have said a number of different things and I would have been happy, but he also spoke to something in my life at the moment that I needed to hear it, in the midst of some of my own insecurities and weaknesses.
A well timed encouragement can go a long way--it may not even matter if it's about someone's look, style, hair-do, or singing voice--but if it's genuine, and more so, if it's lead by God (you just get that feeling that you have to tell them) then it may very well make all the difference in the world.
Thanks, friend, for a well timed, God-lead, encouragement.