Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How to be a Life-Giving Leader: Lesson Three

I'm one of those guys that's too proud to admit that he needs to hear encouraging words from time to time. But you know what? Kind and encouraging words are like life and light to my soul. They change my attitude and outlook. They are like a cool breeze washing out the deep humidity of the day.

Life-giving leaders know how to encourage others. They speak life into the hearts of those around them. They add courage, strength, and confidence to their souls. Encouraging words lighten our heavy loads, and life-giving leaders have a knack for identifying and alleviating the over-burdened.

Some people (not me) are just naturally encouraging. They are perfectly content to sit and talk with you about you! They don't try to turn the conversation back to themselves. They don't try to talk business. Their encouragement is not awkward or forced. Building others up is just a natural part of who they are.

But, for the rest of us, encouragement can be difficult. It's hard enough to take a compliment, much less receive one. We don't know how the other person will react. Will they be embarrassed? Will they think we're dumb? Will there be an awkward pause in the conversation and you'll have no natural way out? Of course these are all ridiculous reasons, but they betray our own deeply-rooted insecurities, which is what really keeps us from being an encourager.

Unlike power, encouragement is infinite. When you give it away, you don't lose anything within yourself. You can't lose anything when you speak a kind and uplifting word to someone. Those words are free...and invaluable. Your people need to be built up. They need to be edified, encouraged, and lifted up. Sometimes they toil in deeply humid environments, and all they're waiting for is a breath of fresh air.

You can be an encourager by simply speaking those fleeting thoughts that pass through your mind. I try to do this with my wife. So many times I look at her and have a brief thought of, "Wow, she looks great." And that's all well and good, but it doesn't mean a thing to her if I don't say it. If you're in a meeting, and someone has a good insight, tell them. If worship was particularly engaging, tell everyone on the music team how much it meant to you. Whatever the circumstance, never let an opportunity to encourage others pass you by.

And be sure to look out for those who are discouraged. Remember that God is particularly close to those who are downcast and broken-hearted. You be close to them, too. Ask the Spirit to give you words of life and light to speak into their death and darkness. And, of course, don't try to fix anybody. Just use your words to add courage, strength, confidence, light and life to their souls.

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