Support is giving assistance or ‘holing up’ someone or something. Encouragement is the action of giving someone support, confidence or hope. In encouraging we are stimulating the development of something within a person.
It is through relationships that we grow. Just as a child grows in response to the attention and care she receives from her parents, so too do we depend on the community of people around us to grow.
We all hold great power in our ability to nurture those around us. The word education comes from educare, meaning to ‘draw forth’ or ‘lead out’. When we offer a supportive presence to people in our lives, we are having an educative effect on them by bringing out the good qualities inside of them. When we see the good in another and name it, we bring it alive further in them.
A group of frogs were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the unfortunate frogs they would never get out. The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit.
The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and simply gave up. He fell down and died.
The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and suffering and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out. When he got out, the other frogs asked him, “Why did you continue jumping. Didn’t you hear us?”
The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.
What does this story teach us about our power in how in the effect we can have on each other?
Often, we can be unaware of our own gifts and good qualities. It takes someone else to notice and name them for us to see them. You can do a great service to those around you by spotting their strengths and letting them know their value.
Sit with someone you know or a group of people and see if you can name something you appreciate about their character. It might be a strength like their kindness or creativity. Perhaps it is a gift or talent they possess like being a good singer or a caring friend. Or maybe there is something that they did that you admire them for. Then allow the other to do the same for you.
How was the experience? What did it feel like to give appreciation? How did it feel to receive it? Notice and name whatever emotions arise in response. You might feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or awkward and if so, that’s fine, just be open to feeling what you are feeling. There is no right or wrong way to feel, just be curious.
See if you can practice spotting strengths in others and naming them when it feels appropriate. It might go something like, ‘You listen really well, empathy is a real strength of yours’. Or, ‘You always make people laugh. A big strength of yours in humour’.
How might this change your interactions?
Whenever you are struggling think about people who believe in you and who support you. Notice what effect it has on how you feel.