"Edify, Edify, lift your sister up. Edify Edify, lift your sister up."
That was a cheesy chant we used to say at Kanakuk. I think we liked it because edify seemed like such a grown up word. Why say encouragment when you could say edification?? But the sentiment is true: our words have the power to lift up or destroy. I always thought of encouragement of a friend or family member as being something praising -- Good job! thats the best cake I have ever tasted! What an amazing party you threw!
But as I am growing up, I view the power of the toungue as more than just pats on the back, but also just affirmation of God-given qualities that someone else may have and be using but feel unsure of or may have been gifted with but unsure of and not using.
I've always noticed this in dating relationships, and I am assuming marriage as well (althought I am not there yet) -- many people will say the man will step up and be who he needs to be for the woman he loves...or the woman will correct her flaws and improve herself for a man that causes her to want to. In my own life, I have noticed this to be so true....but I don't think it's simply a desire for both parties to step up and be their best self to impress (although thats part of it), I think its that in a romantic relationship, especially at first, both parties are so adoring and point out the positive character traits of another person.
"You're so encouraging" "I like how you are thoughtful" "You always have a plan and have things together." "You challenge me to see things a different way" "I love how you are so loyal to your friends" etc. etc.
When you are dating someone and they say something about a personality trait, you start to think maybe I am that way, maybe I am encouraging, and naturally you feel confident enough to be more encouraging (to be more yourself) because someone noticed that quality.
What if I did the same thing in all relationshps? What if we all do? Instead of saying "great party, one of the best this year." Couldn't I affirm a friend and tell her she has a real gift for welcoming people and it always makes us feel at home? The quality is always there, but hearing it stated could encourage her to use her unique talents more.
I loved this blog post today dealing with this issue.... the author states how someone told her she was nurturing and she said, "It produced in me a confidence (wholly unwarranted on the basis of the observation of my eyes) that I am “nurturing.” And I could tell, instantly, that the confidence that I am nurturing was powerful in itself for calling the quality into existence in me."
She challenged her readers to point out a character trait or virtue in another -- kindness, faithfulness, etc - and watch the power of words cause that already existant quality to swell. As I said, I have noticed this happen in dating relationships, I want to make it happen in all relationships. Use my words not to hurt, and not even to praise and stroke egos, but to simply point out affirming truth.
4 hours ago