Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11
Good morning Prayer Team!
Last fall, I wrote a whole unit on encouragement, so today’s message serves as a reminder that encouragement is an integral part of healthy relationships. The most important things to know about encouragement are that encouragement is something everyone needs, and something that everyone can give. Sometimes in our relationships, encouragement is something that is overlooked. For instance, my secretary comes in and works every day. Do I stop to give her positive feedback and encouragement, of just take her work for granted? How about with our friends? Our spouses? This important element is often forgotten with the people we see the most.
We are often quick to give feedback when something goes wrong. However, we sometimes forget to give feedback when things are going right. And encouragement goes beyond saying “thank you.” It includes things like “What you do for me is really important,” or “I value you,” or “Our friendship means the world to me.” Encouragement is spoken purposefully.
I’ve asked many groups of people whether they hear more voices of encouragement or discouragement in the world, and with the exception of pre-teens, the answer is that the overwhelming number of voices in the world are discouraging. So, encouragement is something we need to counter the other voices that we hear. It is something we need to receive on a regular basis, but it is also something we need to give.
Not only do we need encouragement in our jobs and in our friendships, we need spiritual encouragement. We need to encourage each other to pray, to attend church, and to lead a Christian life. We need to hold one another accountable as well.
Christianity is meant to be encouraging. Praying, worshipping, receiving the Sacraments, Confession, these things are all supposed to give us positive reinforcement and encourage us in our faith.
Many times in our jobs, we become very concerned about results and we forget that for the most part, our jobs is to create environments that encourage certain kinds of behaviors. In other words, a teacher cannot force students to learn, so if half of a class doesn’t not want to learn, a teacher should not feel like a failure. The role of the teacher is to create an environment which encourages learning. Thus the teacher should focus on having good lesson plans, being approachable, and encouraging students to learn. The doctor encourages healthy living by providing prescriptions and guidance. The priest encourages a healthy relationship with Christ by open up the church for worship, learning, and counseling. In whatever your role is, focus on creating an environment that encourages. Because encouragement is not only a worthy goal at work, it is an attainable one.
And take the role of encourager seriously. Encouragement is something we all need and something that none of us is getting enough of.
Encouragement/Positive Reinforcement (from a spiritual perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do you speak positively to others about the faith? Do you give positive reinforcement and encouragement to others about their faith? Does your witness of the faith affect the faith of others in a positive or negative way?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down one at least one way you can encourage others in their faith. Make it a goal each week to offer encouragement to at least one person about their spiritual life. Call someone you haven’t seen at church in a while and invite them back.
Encouragement/Positive Reinforcement (from a relationship perspective)—Do I give more praise or criticism to others? Do I make it a goal to praise someone each day? Do I give positive feedback to my spouse, my friends and my co-workers? Do I see the good in others or am I always looking for the bad? Do I see others as a glass that is more half full or half empty?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down three people you see on a daily basis—this can be family members, friends, co-workers. Next to each person’s name, write down some aspect of their life where you can offer encouragement and positive reinforcement.
Lord, help me not to be discouraged by the voices of negativity and cynicism that seem to surround us. Help me to be the voice of encouragement and help me to know that my encouragement makes a difference. Through Your mercy, allow it to make a difference for someone today. Send people into my path TODAY who can use some encouragement. Help me to keep my eyes open and my heart open so that I don’t miss an opportunity to encourage today. Amen.
Make at least one encouraging comment to someone every day.
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