“You can do it; try it again”, a mother’s soft voice encouraged her small daughter learning how to put shapes in the matching box lid. Before children can talk, they need consistent encouragement as they practice hand/eye coordination. Seeing smiling faces, being gently bathed and dressed, hearing books read before they know words are just a few examples of seeds of encouragement.
Do you remember who read to you? Who taught you how to play ball and ‘make’ baskets; who helped you learn to ride a bike, or fix the chain, held your hand to stabilize you on skates, coached you in baking, doing gymnastics, singing, crafts, or showed you how to change the oil in your car? Who took you to church, boy scouts or girl scouts, to music lessons? Who comforted you when you didn’t make the team, got a failing grade, contracted the measles or when a pet died?
Reflect on whose encouragement has moved you along in life. The push that helped you discover your passions and the confidence to ‘try it again’? Take a few minutes to rehearse who patiently sowed seeds of encouragement toward the challenges that eventually excited and still satisfies you down to your toes.
Our mother made sure we got to church after we were forced to move to a near-by town. The members of our new church were marvelous sowers in teaching and coaching and in turn encouraging us to lead singing and teach classes. Spiritual seeds were sowed at just the right time and in the right way. School teachers, then professors, bosses, clients, church members and good friends have contributed generously to me and my siblings’ well-being and future careers.
My dear husband and best friend, Jim, was a faithful encourager for 65 years. Not in flowery words--he was a Head-Logic Thinker--but by encouraging me to try something new, making it possible for me to take advantage of any opportunity to speak, write, take a class, etc. He was happy to get me to the airport or places further than I felt comfortable driving myself. He especially encouraged my writing and counseling. When he agreed to officiate at marriages, he recommended they take the MBTI (Myers-Briggs-Temperament-Indicator) that I was becoming proficient in giving (which became our wedding gift). He was so impressed how personality design helped couples adjust and then in parenting that he began to assist in my seminar presentations as well. We co-led many church seminars, pastors/wives and marriage seminars in various states especially after we retired when he had more discretionary time. We were happily involved in sowing seeds of encouragement to people in various walks of life.
Jim’s adopted cousin/brother, Don, encouraged me by arranging opportunities to administer the MBTI to Texas auto dealerships and churches wherever he lived which refined my expertise and experience which in part prepared me for the account shared on the next page
Encouragement, like anger or love needs to be understood, appreciated and nurtured. We can all recount receiving encouragement via love, gifts, assistance as well as through words, like those of the child’s mother. Recently, a discussion with several women centered on the ways their dads encouraged them and showed love, although rarely saying a word or giving hugs. “We knew we were valued and appreciated even though we never heard the coveted words “I love you”, “You’re doing great” or “I’m proud of you.” The trend in the 40’s-50’s was ‘do’ rather than ‘say’. Children were obliged to assume if nothing negative was said, then obviously, “I am loved and must be doing acceptably.”
Naturally, the sixteen different personalities respond uniquely to various seeds of encouragement. Gary Chapman describes in his book, The Five Love Languages, the various methods of encouragement: gifts, words, trips, assistance, approval, etc.
Hands on people—Sensing Crowd—like to be encouraged about what they did, sewed, cleaned, cooked, built, made or repaired. Mind on people—iNtuitive Segment—prefer encouragement regarding their ideas, research, design, analysis, writing, etc. Regular readers will recall that fifty percent of the world, Heart-Logic Feelers (majority female) respond to the seeds that begin with A: approval, appreciation, affirmation, attention, and affection while the other fifty percent, Head-Logic Thinkers (majority male) respond to Trust and Respect, preferring to try things on their own before receiving assistance. They like harmony but can work without it and respond to the five A’s in milder forms.
In a recent seminar six men typed out: Introverted Sensing Head-logic Thinkers and Structured. I arrived full knowing that attending a seminar like this would not be one of their favorite things, and that these quiet men would wonder how this white-haired older lady could tell them anything they didn’t already know. I was aware that it would require some warming-up-time as they listened. My initial statement to them was “I will be brief, stick to the facts and not ask any personal questions”. I assured them that I had given the same seminar to men employed in car-dealerships. That I wanted to give them a balanced view of what their opposites—Heart-Logic Feelers needed--the five A’s. They all smiled when I described what feelers are eager to hear. Then I acknowledged that it’s difficult to give what you don’t need and it’s difficult not to give what you need. I related that after counseling all day at 10:30 pm I shared with Jim (Head-Logic Thinker) how tired I was to which he responded “Well, who makes out your schedule?” I said,” I don’t need a sermon but a hug and a little approval”. He hugged me and gave me some verbal affirmation. Like you, Jim found it difficult to give what he didn’t need.
I was pleased as well as amused that a couple of the men shared that while listening to the interpretation that they checked off the temperament of their wives and that their wives were opposite. “Yes, opposites do attract”, I assured them. “And what attracts us in the first place, is likely to drive us up a wall later”, to which they chuckled in agreement.
I reiterated that even though understanding is simple it is drastically necessary in appreciating others, getting along and maintaining harmony. Hopefully, the information they received will encourage them to understand and relate to one another and the other workers in the business. If the men had as much fun as I did, it was worth our time.
Knowing a person’s God-given temperament equips us to speak and behave in ways that the listener will understand, appreciate and be encouraged. Hopefully, others will gift you with the encouragement that you need. Sometimes, we need to actually tell people close to us what we prefer to hear.
Perhaps you would like to encourage others but are not a talker, at least with strangers. For starters:
· Thank someone for helping you pick up something you dropped, or the person who drove up behind you on the highway to ask if you need help.
· Write a simple little note commending a server at a restaurant, grocery, or store, gives good help or service. Leaving a tip is encouragement but going another step and sending a note of commendation to be put in their work file is a gesture that often leads to promotions.
· Pay attention to those who help you at home, at work, in the neighborhood and be generous with your appreciation and thanks. Giving them a plate of homemade cookies is also encouraging.
Jesus’ parable about the Sower parallels our topic: …some seed fell along the path, some on rocky places, among thorns, (didn’t thrive) some fell on good soil where it produced a crop. Read for yourself: Matt: 13:3-8. A cheerful heart is good medicine. Prov. 17:22
A resent email to this ENFJ were the ‘seeds’ of encouragement that inspired this blog:
Wonderful, lovely, beautiful!!! You have two weeks on a row hit nails smack on the head! Love, love, love the text and the closing scriptures!!!You have learned, experienced, trained, and lived well!! Thank you, Ruth, for this soul and heart nourishment!!