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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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
THE ENCOURAGEMENT PROJECT
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4: 31-32
Good morning Prayer Team!
Back when I went to college, we had a professor who routinely offered to let us out of class 30 minutes early, unless someone had a question. And in this class, there was a student, who every time he heard “unless someone has a question,” his hand would go up immediately, as if it was a Pavlovian response. And he would chew up most of the 30 minutes where we might have gotten out early. Every class, there was a possibility to leave early. And every class, it seems like he would steal that from us.
We call people like this “killjoy.” They “kill” our “joy.” I remember when said student wasn’t in class, we would all be happy that he wasn’t there. And when he came, which was most of the time, it frustrated us. He routinely, it seems, “killed our joy.”
We all know people who fit this description. We all know people, who, when we call them, our palms of our hands start to sweat and our hearts beat faster because they make us nervous. Some people are probably thinking of their bosses as they read this. Teachers have students like this. Sadly, some people feel like about their parents or spouses or children.
While I am sure that not everyone likes me, I hope that I’m not someone who makes people nervous. I certainly hope I’m not seen as a “kill joy.” Reviewing what we’ve said so far about encouragement, being an encourager is serious business. It takes a serious commitment to be an encourager. It means putting aside any tendency we have that can make others nervous. It doesn’t mean we have to be push-overs. It means that we strive for kindness even in moments of disagreement. We can be upset and still be an encourager.
What we need more of in this world are “build joys”, people who build joy and encourage joy. We all know people who like to gossip and who talk in negative terms about almost everything. Many times, we get frustrated with these people. We want to tell them “tell me something good.” Sometimes, we all are negative, cynical, cranky, grouchy, whatever you want to call it. Encouragers don’t stay this way for long. Encouragers take joy with them wherever they go, and they seek to build joy among all people and in all (well, most) situations.
Going back to the words of St. Paul, we are to put away things like bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. These things breed discouragement. No one is encouraged when they are around people who are cultivating these traits.
What people want and what people need in relationships is kindness and forgiveness. In short, we all crave encouragement. And we can all become encouragers.
One other piece of advice, which is make sure you say something good. Don’t be a bearer of only bad news. As one of my friends reminds me when I am too negative, “tell me something good!” Make sure you get something “good” into every conversation today. Don’t dominate conversations with negativity and try not to leave them on a negative note.
Lord, thank You for the gift of today. Thank You for the possibilities to glorify You. Thank You for the sun and its warmth. Thank You for the beauty of trees, the sensation of the wind, thank You for the moon and the stars as well. Help me to be a person who shows love, who radiates joy, who promotes encouragement, and who focuses on the positive. Help me to be someone who build joy. And strengthen my soul in the times when I am not joyful. May I project love and joy to all those I meet today. Amen.
Think about some concrete ways that you can encourage joy in your relationships today.
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Photo Credit: Nourishing Joy
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