In describing what real love is all about, 1 Corinthians 13:4
says that

Love looks for a way of being constructive…

In describing what real love is all about, 1 Corinthians 13:4 says that “Love looks for a way of being constructive…” This verse echoes God’s instruction in Romans 15:2, “We should consider the good of our neighbor and help build up his character.”

How can we encourage those around us? One way is through personal challenges. Challenges are powerful change-agents. For 12 years, the Green Bay Packers won only 30 percent of their games. By 1958 they were 1 and 10. Then along came Vince Lombardi. The following nine years brought nine winning seasons. They won 75 percent of their games, capturing five national championships and the first two Super Bowls. Their coach knew the power of personal challenges.

A second way we can encourage those around by focusing on potential rather than shortcomings. Jesus did this with the Apostle we know as Peter, whose given name was Simon. One day Jesus told him he had a new name: Peter (which meant “rock”). Now when Jesus told Simon he was now “Rock,” he was anything but. His behavior could have more accurately caused him to be renamed “Mister-Foot-In-The-Mouth.” But Jesus didn’t tell him what he was, He told him what he could be. This is an important key to building confidence: Tell people what they could be instead of criticizing them for what they are not.

When you label someone positively, they respond positively. When you label someone negatively, you reinforce the image they perhaps already have of themselves. For example, when you continually call your child a klutz, they start thinking of themselves as one and acting that way. Wives, don’t call your husband insensitive (even if he is). Husbands, don’t call your wife a nag (even if she does). Avoid negative labeling.

There is great power in affirmation. One of the best tips I got from the terrific little book, “The One-Minute Manager,” was the advice to “catch people doing something right, and then tell them.”

And when you offer encouragement, be sure to be specific. When your mate has went to a lot of effort to cook a meal, don’t just wolf it down, burp, and say, “Good grub.” Instead, say something like, “What a great meal! I don’t know how you do it, but I really appreciate it.” Or when your child brings home a picture they colored at school, don’t just say, “That’s nice…” Rather, praise them on their choice of colors and how they stayed in lines (or didn’t let the lines restrict their creativity).

There are, of course, times when we need to confront friends and loved ones with something that is damaging them. As Proverbs 24:26 points out, “An honest answer is the sign of a true friendship.” A real friend will tell you when you’re blowing it; they will care enough about you to correct you. But know this: Correction is very powerful and dangerous stuff. When it’s done rightly it builds up, but when done wrongly it can scar someone for life.

The difference between the right and wrong ways to confront someone is simply this: your attitude and motivation for correcting. If you just want to correct someone to point out their faults, don’t do it. This isn’t correction; it’s condemnation. Ask yourself what your motive is for correcting them. Ask, “Is it for my benefit, or theirs?” And always remember God’s command to “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:1).

There is no more fitting advice in this area than this: “In response to all God has done for us, let us outdo each other in being helpful and kind to each other…” (Hebrews 10:24).

Henry Harris is Senior Pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church in Hollister. Your questions and comments are appreciated. Write him in care of the church at 330 Tres Pinos Road, Hollister 95023, e-mail him at [email protected] or call 636-5353.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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