I can’t speak for women, but I know that men are desperate for encouragement! Certainly, it is true for women as well.
Most of us are trying hard to be good husbands—OK, perhaps not hard, but trying. Nonetheless, we do want—no need!—encouragement. Without encouragement, we give up or give less than our best efforts.
What is it about encouragement that keeps us going? What is it about a little bit of hope that puts wind back in our sails and makes us strive to do better?
Recently, I wrote the first chapter of a new book I’m working on. This is always an anxious time for me as I want to not only please the publishing company I hope will accept the book, but also my most immediate editor—my wife.
I always hand her my first crummy draft with apprehension.
“Don’t worry,” she says smiling. “You’ll get an A.”
“But, you haven’t finished reading it yet,” I remark anxiously.
“Even if the first crummy draft has problems, you’ll still be able to make an A. Relax.”
She offers a knowing smile. We’ve been through this before and I know I’ll be able to perform up to her standards at some point.
“I’m relieved,” I reply, smiling back at her.
Later that day, she handed the first crummy draft back to me, filled with red ink. At first, I feel discouraged but feel relieved when she reminds me, “It’s going to be great with a little work.”
“Remember,” she says as she notes my concern. “I said even if the first draft is rough, you’ll still be able to get an ‘A’. It will just take some work.”
I’m not afraid of doing some work, I muse. I’m anxious about writing something that the world snubs.
As I reflected on our work together, I’m reminded of the power of encouragement as well as the fear of feeling inadequate. We all have that fear—the fear of not measuring up. The fear of being compared to someone else and sensing that we will be found wanting. The fear is so great in some that they refuse to take a risk or place their skills and talents in front of the public for fear of rejection.
But what if you knew you were going to get an “A” even before you started? What if you were told, “I will always appreciate your efforts. I will respond positively to whatever you give me.”
Imagine this fear of rejection and criticism at work in your relationship. You so badly want to get an “A”, to have your mate recognize your worth. You want to be seen in a bright light, to be appreciated for who you are as well as what you do.
You have the power to do this for your mate and for each other. Consider taking the following steps:
First, discuss with your mate your desire for approval.
It’s OK to acknowledge to each other that you want an “A”—you want and need affirmation. You want to be encouraged and reassured that whatever you produce, you will have the opportunity to improve upon it so that the final product is fully appreciated.
Second, encourage each other to do your best.
Give each other feedback on how they can please you, and what it will take to obtain the “A”. This can apply to the mundane chores around the house to the larger projects to aspects of your personality.
Third, encourage each other when efforts are close to what is desired.
Notice the small steps your mate takes to obtain your approval. While it may not be exactly what you want, notice his/her efforts. Make a big deal out of them. Point out what exactly is needed to hit the mark so they are not left guessing.
Scripture tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) We all need encouragement and to be noticed for how hard we are trying. Encouragement gives us the ability to keep trying.
Fourth, offer specific feedback as to how your mate can do even better.
Christie offers me specific feedback, constructive criticism, which allows me to make my manuscript the best it can be. Undergirded with encouragement and support, I receive her feedback gracefully—at least most of the time.
Finally, celebrate accomplishments.
We must pause at the key points in a project to note the progress. Progress, not perfection, is the key. Make sure you are giving each other praise and encouragement at each step of the way.
Credit: Dr. David Hawkins