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  • Writer's pictureMark Alan Williams

You Can Do It!

One of my most unforgettable memories came in Jr. High gym class. We were taking a phys ed test and had to shoot basketball free throws. My friend, Neil, was there when it was my turn to shoot ten free throws and see how many I could make. As I started shooting, he spoke encouragement and I made the shots.

One, two, three—each shot went in as he said, “You can do it. Way to go, you can do it.” But I got to about 8 shots without missing when Neil’s words changed and he said, “You can’t do it, you’re gonna miss.”

Guess what, I missed the next shot—number 9 as I recall.

At that point I think Neil felt guilty. He went back to his previous “you can do it” theme. And I did, I made the tenth shot.

People thrive when they hear, “you can do it.” We crave encouragement, respect, approval and appreciation, especially from those closest to us. Conversely, we tend to wither under criticism, disrespect and disapproval.

God thinks encouragement is so important, He mandates it saying, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1Thessalonians 5:11 ESV).

What does the best encouragement look like? It is:

  • SINCERE:Don’t say something encouraging if you don’t believe what you are saying. Phony encouragement is unethical. People are likely to see through it.

  • SPECIFIC: The best encouragement is specific—it doesn’t just say, “I believe in you.” It says, “I believe in you because….” I remember an author friend who said to me long before I had published anything, “I know you can write and publish—I’ve see your writing.” Wow, he pumped me up.

  • SHARED: Encouragement given in front of others, especially loved ones and colleagues, is even more powerful. Others often join in encouraging.

So let’s make it our goal to become a better encourager!

Don’t worry about giving others a “big head.” God can easily deflate those who become puffed up.

And let’s be careful of backhanded encouragement. I once had a mentor who, after I gave him my progress report said, “Come on, you can do better than that.” Later he told me he was trying to motivate me. But he actually seriously de-motivated me.

The world is full of discouragement: problems, setbacks, crises, recessions, heartaches. No one needs more discouragement, even if it is “the truth.” What we need is a Neil on the sidelines saying, “You can do it.”

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