Published May 1, 2012 by Ashley Townsend
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
Even the most secure person needs a little encouragement once in a while. Whether from family or friends, or a complete stranger in line at the coffee shop, to be affirmed means something. But even with the power of a kind word, a cutting remark can sometimes wipe away the good of a hundred affirming comments. You can hear countless times that you’re special and worth something, but one random remark can block all that out.  
I have dealt with my share of cutting remarks—we all have at one time or another. But it’s not the harsh assessments I or someone else had for me that stick out the most in my mind. The instances I recall with the most clarity are the times when someone went out of their way to encourage me or someone else.
It was in my college literature class last semester, and all the students had divided into our small groups to discuss the reading for the week. I had been feeling pretty crummy about how I had done on our midterm the week before, since I’d had barely any time to study for it, and I was also feeling like a failure in writing as I suffered from terrible writer’s block. Our instructor announced that we wouldn’t be getting our tests back until the next week, so that left me seven more days to enjoy the what-ifs.
Then in the middle of class, our teacher interrupted my small group. She was always fun and animated in class, but I had never seen that almost giddy expression on her face as she clutched her hands to her chest, as if about to swoon. In front of my entire group, she said that she was in heaven when she read my essay and that it was the only one she had graded that got 100%. I couldn’t even remember if I had spelled my name correctly, so her assessment shocked me into uncharacteristic silence. I think I just blushed and smiled awkwardly, and that was it.
I had been so down on myself, and here my teacher went out of her way to tell me my writing meant something and stuck out from the rest. I remember laughing as I left class because I realized that God knew I was beating myself up at that exact moment, and I like to think he just gave my teacher a little push to say those things. And that little bit of encouragement actually helped to break my stilted writing streak!
I’m not sharing this story to boast about my writing technique, because there have been plenty of stinkers (and I mean stinkers!) that I’ve had to move past. But I wanted an example of how words can heal and encourage. It isn’t a one-way street, though. We have to start offering our own encouragement and tell them how God sees them.
Even the smallest word of praise can mean everything in a world that tries to beat us down and fit us into a mold. My teacher may never know how much her words touched me, and I wish I had told her what it meant. You might not think your words mean much, but they have great power in them. So, I challenge for one week to lift up those around you and share whatever wisdom you might have.
The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that you’re ever going through something alone. Someone has either experienced it, is going through the same trial, or will go through it. So learn from those who overcame, lean on someone who is going through it, and be a light to those who will one day go through the same fire.
“Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”
-Charles Dickens

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