John was on his way home after a very long day. Work had been hard lately, and John was leaving most days feeling discouraged and thinking about quitting.  It just didn't seem like he did any good anymore. 

As he rounded the corner the most dreaded sight of his commute rose up to meet him: the bridge.  He wondered when they were ever going to fix the stupid thing? 

As he got closer, he realized that traffic was especially bad today.  He flipped on the radio to find out what was going on, but there was no word of any accidents. He quickly realized that he would have to phone Steph and tell her that he would be late for dinner.  

He was reaching the middle point of the bridge when he saw something unusual.  There was a man standing on the railing.  At first John just thought about how much of a hassle this was.  But then he realized that he had a chance to do some good here. 

He quickly jumped out of his car and ran towards the man. 

"What are you doing?"

"I got up here to jump, but it's higher than I thought."

"Nah, it's not that high.  Easy; just close your eyes and do it!"

"But I'm not sure..."

"Look, when you set your mind to something, you have to follow through. Go for it."

With that, the man on the bridge jumped.  John walked back to his car, glad he had encouraged at least one person today. He may be late for dinner, but he was coming home with a smile on his face.  

Encouragement, to what?

Clearly a ridiculous story.  Whatever we might say of John, I don't think 'encouraging' is the first word that springs to mind.  However, it illustrates a point.  Encouragement is all well and good, but likely the most important thing to ask is this: what are we encouraging people to?

This post is the third post on encouragement.  It goes with "Encouragement" and "Living Encouragement" from back in October. 

Appropriate Encouragement

From a Christian standpoint we do not blindly encourage people towards whatever they desire.  Nor is our end goal that others 'feel good' (though there is nothing wrong with this as a byproduct). What we ought to be encouraging people towards are God and life, which are one and the same.  This is a huge part of what it means to bless others, which is why we want to be encouraging. 

In terms of how this looks in the good times, see my other two posts.  However, many times what it ought to look like is admonishment and rebuke. Dictionary wise, these are the same action, but one (admonish) is done gently while the other (rebuke) is done sharply.  There is much wisdom needed in determining when to do which, but if in doubt err towards admonishment. 


Here's the thing; I think we all know, logically, how this fits into encouragement.  If someone is doing something hurtful, dangerous, stupid, etc. then it behooves us as someone who cares about them to encourage them to stop and replace those actions/thoughts with what is good and right.  This is both loving and encouraging.  The problem comes in actually doing it. 

Most of us are admonished, or rebuked, so rarely in any context (and if it happens, it is probably in one of two contexts: from parents, or from bosses) that we do not handle it well.  If someone in our life started to regularly encourage us in this fashion we would probably quickly take steps to avoid that person.  

The result is that none of us want to be the admonisher, for fear of losing our friends, and none of us want to be admonished, for fear of losing our pride/image/honor.  This system hurts everyone involved, and is not biblical, but there it is.   

A Challenge

The solution is to become a person who is open to admonishment and invite your close friends to help you in this.  In fact, I challenge you to work towards just this.  Here are some tips:

1. Create space to receive admonishment
- Invite a close friend to help you. Give them the freedom and commit to not turning this against them or avoiding them. 

2. Value friends who care enough about you to be honest.  Look up some of these scriptures for help. 
Prov 9:8, Prov 10:17,Prov 12:1, Prov 13:18, Prov 15:5, Prov 15:32,33, Prov 17:10, Prov 24:24,25, Prov 27:5,6, Prov 29:1, Eccles. 7:5 

3. Be suspicious of your own defensiveness
- It is our automatic response to rebuke, but it is unhelpful.  

4. Consider the encouragement you are getting
- think it through; if it is coming from a close friend, there is probably at least some truth to it, and almost definitely more truth than you are comfortable with.  

Giving Admonishment

One more thing.  If you are the friend asked to admonish another, you can also make it much easier just by being gracious.  Here are some other tips though:
- Be specific
- Be biblical
- Be private
- Be encouraging (both in admonishment, but also in positive things)
- Be patient
- Be prayerful

1 comment:

Justin E. Chan said...

thanks for being honest and specific. I was thinking of 'challenging' someone today, but it was good to check my motives and check my agenda at the door. What they need is grace and acceptance rather than rule and authority. I pray for wisdom. I'll let you know after this evenings get together.