Lately, while looking on Facebook and various news broadcasts on television, I cannot help but notice how some people only seem to want to focus on having negative attitudes rather than positive ones. Whether it is directed at themselves or others, negativity is a contagious state of mind that threatens to bring even some of the most cheerful person down. I have to say, that after seeing how this country has changed for the worse within the past month (the Supreme Court allowing same-sex marriages to be legal, Planned Parenthood being charged with selling body parts of aborted babies as well as various acts of violence being perpetrated all over the U.S.), it is even more important today for Christians to be encouraging to others as well as to themselves in such trying times.
It is easy to become negative if one focuses on negative things. There are plenty of negative things to focus on in this world if a person looks for them. In my work as a therapist, I noticed more of my female clients being prone to negative thinking than the male clients, even though there were some male clients who had negative thinking patterns. Having a negative attitude and being upset at wrongdoing, however, are two different things. I see this difference a lot on Facebook. Being dismayed at wrongdoing and telling others on Facebook how those actions are wrong does not make a person a negative thinker. Galatians 6:1 states: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Also, those who express their sadness at losing a loved one or from facing another major challenge in their lives are not negative thinkers either. I’m referring to those people who tend to either complain about trivial things or they tend to dwell upon expressing negative thoughts repeatedly to others. This type of negative thinking does not help the one expressing the thoughts nor does it help those who listen to them.
Being an encouraging person not only helps others feel more positive about themselves and their surroundings, but it also helps the encourager. While I was working as a therapist, I noticed that a lot of my clients were taking medication to help their feelings of depression, when, in fact, having a positive attitude and encouraging others would help more than medication. I know this because many clients who took anti-depressants were still depressed! In order to help them, I encouraged them to do 3 things. One thing was to keep a gratitude journal every day, no matter how bad they felt their day was. Another thing I would have them do was log their negative thinking, and practice changing their negative thoughts into positive thoughts. The last thing I would suggest doing was to do something to help others, whether that was through volunteering or a regular job. Most clients who actually did all three things I suggested reported feeling much better than they did from just taking the medication. This shows that being encouraging towards others and one’s self has many benefits. I am reminded of Paul, who penned one of the most encouraging books in the Bible while he was under arrest for preaching the Gospel. We can learn from Paul that, no matter how bad things seem in the moment, we can still have an encouraging attitude. Philippians Chapter 4 is an especially good example of encouraging thoughts.
We can encourage others when they are down and when they are blessed with something good in their lives. When something is not going as we had planned in our lives, encouraging words from others always seems to make things seem a little better. It is also good to be encouraging to one who is doing well in his or her life.
Verbal affirmation is one way to encourage others. Being verbally encouraging can help those in the church. For instance, it is always good to encourage those who participate in church services such as preachers, song leaders, teachers, elders, deacons, etc. because it helps them stay positive and motivated to do the Lord’s Work. Another way is treat others as you would want to be treated. Doing good deeds such as visiting shut-ins the elderly, and participating in church services, is always beneficial. Also, encouraging other Christians who are doing good deeds is a great way to be uplifting
In conclusion, it is so important for us as Christians to be encouraging to others as well as to ourselves. Encouragement goes much farther than a critical mindset, and it provides a refreshing outlook in a world so full of negativity. Let’s be sure to do as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things arehonest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”