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”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection, and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
I Thessalonians 5:11-28 is a section of Scripture where the overwhelming sentiment is one of encouragement and positivity. Overall, this study is intended to be one of encouragement and positivity. However, it would be naïve to think that everything is going to be positive at all times with everyone. People will inevitably disappoint us. I Thessalonians 5:14 even uses the word “admonish”, which means to correct someone who has done wrong, call them out, even scold. Is it possible to admonish someone and be encouraging at the same time? Under certain circumstances, I believe it is.
There are certain relationships in life that will run their course. For instance, if you are an employer and you have an employee who is not performing, you might need to let that person go. That is truth. Not all relationships last forever. In this case, you can terminate someone constructively or destructively. Constructively would be to say it didn’t work out, hopefully it will work out somewhere else, point out what could have been done different and offer best wishes for success in the future. Destructively would be to terminate someone using demeaning language, to say they did nothing good, and to publicly ruin their reputation so that it is difficult for them to find another job. None of that is really necessary. If an employer/employee relationship doesn’t work out, so be it. However, cut ties without being destructive.
A friendship can run its course. I’ve read that some friendships last for a reason, a season or a lifetime. And I believe that eventually, all friendships will end up in one of these three categories. I have lived in several cities in my life. When I was in college, I made good friends, people I enjoyed spending time with, people I confided in, people I trusted, people who I helped and people who helped me. When college ended, so did many of those friendships, because I moved to another city, to graduate school, where I made a new set of friends. Most of the college friendships ended after college—those were friendships for a season. I’ve made many friends through working at summer camp. That is the only reason I met certain people. Without camp, I wouldn’t have met them. These are friendships of reason, people I enjoy working with each year, people I work well with each year, but people who I don’t see by and large outside of summer camp.
Some relationships are supposed to last a life time. Specifically, the ones with our families. We are supposed to love our parents for as long as we have them. We are supposed to love our spouses and children for the rest of our lives. We can’t change our parents, or trade in our children and the intention of marriage is to be with the same person for the rest of life. These aren’t relationships of reason or season. And because they are supposed to be for a life time, we have to be more careful with how we negotiate them. We can’t be overbearing when someone has done wrong and needs to be admonished. Neither can we be a pushover. If we keep encouragement in mind as we admonish, we are more likely to be constructive and positive, rather than destructive and negative, and get the results we hope for.
Admonishing, when done out of love, and not with meanness is a form of encouragement. Telling your spouse you want them to correct a few things in order to strengthen a relationship that you are committed to for life does not have to be a bad thing. Telling your child you love them as you correct something they are doing wrong can be encouraging as well. Challenging someone to do better, or to give their best effort, or to be the best version of themselves, is a form of encouragement. Helping someone figure something out can be encouraging. Acknowledging a failure while working toward a solution can be encouraging.
Telling someone they have disappointed you but affirming that you value the relationship is encouraging. It’s encouraging because it is honest. It doesn’t avoid the conflict or “kick the can down the road.” It tackles the problem head-on. However, while admonishing, it also affirms commitment, it says “Even though I’m disappointed or frustrated, I’m not going anywhere, I’m in this with you for the long haul.” This is encouraging. Admonishment followed up by encouragement provides a safe environment where it’s okay to fail, and it’s okay to be truthful. And let’s be honest, we all fail to some extent frequently, every time we disappoint someone.
Admonishment when mixed with encouragement fosters patience. And patience tells someone “You are important to me and even though it is taking you more time to do something or understand something, or even correct something, I’ll be patient. You are worth it.”
We can’t avoid all pains. We can’t avoid people inflicting pain on us. And because of our fallen nature, there is no way we will get through life without inflicting pain and disappointment on others. Admonishing seems to naturally follow disappointment. However, admonishing when coupled with encouragement, in the relationships that really matter, bring people together, rather than drive them apart, and helps get the desired results. It is certainly an “art” to learn to encourage while scolding. It requires an understanding of the importance of building up, even when tearing down. It requires a commitment to a 5:1 ratio of encouragement to discouragement, so that when it is necessary to admonish (which does tear people down), there is intentional encouragement (which builds people back up).
Lord, thank You for the people in my life that I’m closest to (mention names of family and closest friends). Help to remember, in these relationships that I treasure the most, how to combine admonishing and encouragement. Help me to admonish with kindness and sensitivity, while also being firm and honest. Help me to see the good in others even when they frustrate me. Give me the wisdom to work through moments of disappointment in my relationships. Amen.
Learn to encourage even while admonishing!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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