Admit it: it’s so much easier to criticize people than encourage people. There’s just so much fodder for criticism! We’re all sinners, and we regularly sin against one another. Every day we sin against our families, coworkers, friends, etc. And then there are those annoying habits we all have. Your husband can’t seem to remember to put his towel away after he takes a shower (guilty!). Your wife is a chronic key loser. Your kids are constantly breaking your valuable stuff. And the guy in the cubicle next to you is constantly clearing his sinuses in a loud, wood chipper-like, fashion. Because we are constantly interacting with frail, human, silly sinners, it’s so easy to be a constant critic.
Because it is so easy to criticize, we must take extra effort to encourage, build up, and affirm other believers (I’m preaching to myself here). We must go the extra mile to encourage and refresh others. We must work hard to overwhelm our relationships with encouragement. If our relationships become overrun with criticism they can quickly become unfruitful. In his helpful book, Practicing Affirmation, Sam Crabtree says:
But without affirmation, well-fed, well-inoculated, well-instructed children [or friends, spouses, coworkers, etc.] may tune out their parents and their well-intended instruction—especially their instruction.
In other words, if our relationships are lacking encouragement, it doesn’t matter how much we speak the truth, it won’t be received. If our kids don’t feel our love and encouragement they probably won’t hear our biblical correction and instruction. If our spouse doesn’t hear encouragement from us the relationship will take on a sour flavor. Again, Sam Crabtree says:
Generally, new relationships are still predominately affirming, but as relationships endure the years, they also endure a lot of correction. More specifically, affirmation didn’t keep up. Not enough affirmation was dished out compared with all the other messages in the relationship. A fire not stoked goes out…Proportionality matters when it comes to affirmation, for affirmation can be choked out by criticism, correction, or mere indifference and neglect.
It’s so easy for our relationships with others to be out of proportion when it comes to criticism and encouragement. They are full of criticism and correction and very lacking in encouragement. The result is that the relationship “goes out”. The fires of friendship grow dim. The romance of marriage disappears. The kinship of the parent/child relationship vanishes.
What is the flavor of your relationships? Is it criticism or encouragement? I gravitate toward criticism. I want to be like my friend Doug, who is constantly encouraging others.
Criticism is easy. Anyone can do it. It takes special grace to be an encourager. Ask God to help you grow in being an encourager.