Therefore encourage one another and build up each other…1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NET)
In stressful times (and aren’t they all?) everyone needs encouragement.
Most often stress comes from fear. Fear of failure, fear of consequences, fear of loss. To face our fear, we need courage.
One dictionary defines the word “encourage” this way:
- To inspire with hope, courage, or confidence.
- To give support to; foster.
- To stimulate; spur.
In the Scripture quote above, the Apostle Paul writes to the believers in Thessalonica telling them to encourage one another. As Christians in the early church, in a mostly pagan culture, they were facing many challenges and needed all the hope, courage, and confidence they could get, just as we do today.
In the world of social media, encouragement may be hard to find. We seem to feel compelled to comment on everything we read, and those comments are almost always critical. Some people even make hurtful, inflammatory remarks in order to get a reaction. They seldom consider the feelings of the targets of their criticism.
Christians are instructed to love our neighbors and even treat our enemies with kindness, so how are we to respond with encouragement and even love to people or social media posts we disagree with?
Many of us are familiar with the saying, “If you can’t say something nice, just don’t say anything at all.” That may be an old-fashioned adage, but there is wisdom in those words. Silence can be a powerful rebuke to someone expecting agreement or praise. If you think a response is absolutely required, then choose your words carefully. “I don’t believe that is true,” or, “I don’t agree,” let you record your disagreement without making a personal attack.
When a toddler presents his first artistic efforts, a caring parent searches for something encouraging to say. Rather than, “What is this mess of scribbles supposed to be?” We say, “I like those colors, tell me about it,” to spare the child’s sensitive feelings. We make an effort to find something positive to say.
Everyone has an inner child whose feelings are easily hurt by harsh criticism. Making a casual, cutting remark may make us feel clever, but the person on the receiving end of our wit may be devastated.
We can foster a climate of civility, stimulate respect, and inspire hope and courage by taking the time to carefully consider our words, both spoken in person and posted on social media.
…“I will guard my ways,Psalm 39:1 (NKJV)
Lest I sin with my tongue;
I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle,
While the wicked are before me.”