“Fluffy” Gifts: Why Words Matter

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Who is your greatest cheerleader? Do you have someone in your life who makes you feel like you can accomplish significantly more than you could ever imagine? Do you know anyone who seems to know just the right time to send a card or an email?

I am so grateful for the people in my life with the gift of encouragement.

A few years ago I was leading a leadership meeting for the women in my Bible study. Before they attended that day, they had taken an online spiritual gifts assessment. The list of possible gifts is somewhat long, but includes abilities such as preaching, teaching, leadership, administration, intercession (prayer), showing hospitality, service, and encouragement. One of the ladies commented that one of her top gifts was encouragement, which didn’t seem very exciting to her. In fact her words were, “It seems kind of fluffy.”

Too often we place greater value on those gifts and talents that are more up front. The actor gets more praise than the screenwriter, the singer receives greater notoriety than the songwriter, the sports player boasts more exposure than the host of coaches and trainers that help him/her perform at top capacity.

Where would we be without the encouragers? I shudder to think where I would be in life right now if I didn’t have people along the way to offer words of praise, inspiration, and perseverance.

Encouragement means to inspire with courage, spirit or hope. An encourager helps someone be more confident, and can make the person more likely to do something they otherwise might not do.

The book Carrie made Stephen King famous for horror novels. Carrie was originally written as a short story that King decided he didn’t like and threw in the trash. His wife found it, pulled it out, read it, and told him she thought he really had something, it just needed to be longer. If he hadn’t listened to her encouragement, he might still be teaching high school English and making pennies compared to what he makes now.

When we encourage others with our words we can make dreams come true. We can save lives. We convey hope in the darkest of circumstances. Don’t ever doubt the power of what might otherwise appear as a fluffy gift. Words matter profoundly.

When I taught, I kept what I called an “Inspiration File.” Any kind words that came my way I put in the file. On a bad day, I would pull out the file to remind myself that my job mattered. I now always write my boys’ teachers at least one nice note, if not more, during the year. One teacher told me she kept it on the front of her refrigerator so she could see it all of the time. The teacher I did my student teaching with framed a note I gave him and put it up in his house that remains to this day. Words endure!

Speak words of life into someone today. Maybe you’ll choose your spouse, your kids, a neighbor, a friend, or the cashier at McDonald’s, but whoever you select be specific. Tell them the good you see in them. You will totally make their day. Be sincere and look directly at them. Watch how their eyes light up in the shadow of your praise. Send a card or write an email if you prefer. Be generous with your words.

And, please, if you have a fun story that results, then let me know. I would love to hear from some of my readers!

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Also linking up with Holley Gerth:

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25 thoughts on ““Fluffy” Gifts: Why Words Matter

  1. love this. I still remember when we first talked about this. I have an entire folder of Inspiration stuff, as well. Makes me smile every time I look at it. Sometimes i feel like I need to make it more visible. Being in my desk means I often overlook it until I happen upon it.

    • I am often amazed at the reaction I receive from people when they receive a few words of genuine praise. I’ve often had people tear up over a couple of well placed kind words. We obviously need to encourage one another more. Thanks for reading!

  2. Thanks for an important reminder. One of my GED students has been on my mind lately, I feel like she has so many unrealized gifts. I have been thinking about telling her about the gifts I see, and now I will!

  3. I absolutely keep my students’ letters that speak specifically and from the heart. I’ve been teaching high school for over 14 years, and they never get old. I keep in multiple places, because one never knows where the blahs will strike. I can’t agree with you fervently enough!

  4. Love this.

    One of my top gifts is encouragement, so I appreciate that particular gift being…appreciated! Thanks so much for your post. So glad to be connecting with you over at Influence!

  5. Excellent post and such a great challenge! I have been reading through the book “Speak Love” by Annie Downs as I lead a small group of young girls and it has been wonderful for me. Speaking love, speaking life- oh, if we would all live this way, what a beautiful world it would be. Words endure- love that!
    Thanks for your words here!

  6. Pingback: Not So (Small) Stories: Sixth Edition - Kirsten Oliphant

  7. I LOVE how you brought Stephen King into a post about encouragement, just following a paragraph about spiritual gifts. I totally know what that woman meant about “fluffy” gifts. Sometimes I think moms struggle with this—we all know how important it is, and yet “I’m just a mom” is a common response from a stay-at-home-mom when asked if she works. We all have that sense of putting glory on the front-and-center jobs. I like the idea of the encouragement file as well! Thanks for linking up this week and sorry I’m JUST now getting to read. 🙂

    • Thanks for the opportunity to share and the feedback. I hesitated about sharing about Stephen King (a horror writer of all things), but it was the first story that came to mind. Everyone needs someone to spur them on!

  8. I really appreciate this post. I am doing #40acts for Lent, and this actually aligns with it for me today. It talks about actually picking up the phone and using our words to encourage someone (as opposed to a “like” or a retweet). You are totally empowering me in the same way… instead of staying passive, it is time for me to actively foster a relationship of mine. Thank you so much for speaking this truth 🙂 ~Jenna // A Mama Collective

  9. Yeah, it is kind of fluffy to be an encourager. But that is one of my gifts. And encouraging or kind word can turn around someone’s bad day. That is huge!

  10. What a great post! I have a place where I keep encouraging notes that other’s have written to me. I save them for those days that I feel less then. I love to write notes to other people, and I often see the notes stuck on the refrigerator when I visit them. Words really matter. 🙂 Your words reminded me today that encouragement is always important in the lives of others. Thanks for linking up.

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