Monday, December 15, 2008

Encouragement: Luxury or Necessity?

I'm sure we all have those moments where random ideas pop into our minds all of a sudden. Well, I had mine during dinnertime with my family. While chomping down on broccoli (must be brain food), I recalled an excerpt I read somewhere sometime ago. So I hunted down the book and voila, I found my muse.

For those of you who are interested in war history (yes boy, I'm talking about you), you would know that the Korean War produced the worst Prisoner of War (POW) stories of any war in U.S history. The death rate of American POW's was alarmingly high. Interestingly, the war camp conditions weren't especially cruel. In fact, the detainees endured relatively minor amounts of physical torture. It didn't add up, and Dr. William E. Mayer set our to discover why. His study yielded some surprising results: the men were dying because they had simply lost the will to live. The North Koreans had discovered the ultimate weapon of war: withholding all emotional support from others. No word of encouragement was ever spoken.

Soldiers only received negative letters from home, such as news of a family member's death or overdue bill notifications. Any positive notes were withheld. their captors rewarded them for snitching on one another and even required the men to confess their deepest faults before the entire group. Any sense of encouragement or hope was completely turned away. The effects was devastating. Not only did the prisoners stop caring about one another, they stopped caring about themselves. It was not uncommon to see a prisoner go off into a corner, sit alone, and wait to die.*

Imagine that, being cut of from any encouragement, stranded without love. While we might feel for those soldiers, ask yourself, are you as guilty for being stingy with your words of encouragement?

See, I realise that many of us take encouragement as a luxury rather than a necessity. As the famous saying goes, no man is an island. We constantly need the affirmation from people around us in order to function. Yet, we think we can get by just as well without it. What's worst, we think everyone else can get by without it as well. Our mindset tends to be this: As long as I'm not saying anything negative to him, it's fine. Great, no wonder we feel down in the dumps all the time. Just saying, "Well done! That's was great! You were awesome!" feels like soap in our mouths - foreign and nasty. And because of that, for whatever our reasons are, we do not give those words to someone who needs it.

We are all guilty as charged for not building one another up. Rather, we act as vultures circling a dying creature, waiting to tear it to pieces. And to be honest, that includes me. Too many times I've missed the opportunity to tell someone that they're doing a wonderful job. But now that we know just how much a kind word means to us, what do we do? Brush it aside again? Pretend that you never read this? Well, I for one am not going to. Just as it really makes my day when someone encourages me, I'll do the same for someone else. After all God has blessed me to be a blessing.

So quickly, go pick up the phone and give someone that overdue encouragement. You never know just how much that person needs it until you give it.

*This passage was taken from Habitudes Book 2# by Tim Elmore

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