One of the heroes of the New Testament is a man known as Barnabas. He was originally named Joseph, but the apostles gave him the nickname Barnabas, which means "son of encouragement" or "son of consolation" (Acts 4:36). He earned this nickname because of his generous spirit and his willingness to encourage and support others, especially new converts to the faith.
We find one example of Barnabas's encouragement in the book of Acts (see Acts 9:26-27). The newly-converted Paul was trying to join the disciples in Jerusalem, but they feared him because of his past as a persecutor of Christians. Barnabas, however, vouched for Paul and convinced the other disciples to accept him.
Although Scripture says that it is a gift that some of us receive in abundance — like prophesying, serving, and teaching (see Romans 12:6-8) — it is a gift we all need to exercise. We all need to be sons and daughters of encouragement. How can we cultivate this gift? Here are a few simple tips.
One, practice empathy. To encourage others, we need to understand their perspectives and feelings. Practicing empathy means putting ourselves in someone else's shoes and trying to see the situation from their point of view. This helps us to respond with kindness and support.
Two, listen actively and speak positively. Encouragement often involves being a good listener. When someone is going through a difficult time, listening to them without judgment or interruption can be helpful. Active listening involves giving our full attention to the person speaking, asking clarifying questions, and reflecting on what we hear. When we respond, we should use positive language that focuses on their strengths and potential rather than their weaknesses or failures. This helps to build confidence and motivation.
Three, look for strengths. Encouragement often involves helping others to see their strengths and potential. We can cultivate this by looking for positive qualities in others and pointing them out when we see them. This helps to build confidence and self-esteem.
Four, be there for people. Encouragement can be as simple as being there for someone going through a tough time. Being present means showing up and offering support in whatever way we can, whether through a kind word, a helping hand, or simply being there to listen.
Five, pray for guidance: Ultimately, the gift of encouragement comes from God. We can ask him to guide us in our efforts to encourage others and to give us the wisdom and compassion we need to do so effectively.
So, let us choose encouragement today, lifting each other up and spurring one another on. God bless you.