Encouragementthe good, lasting kind that really means somethingmay come to us in ways that surprise or even annoy us.

I was a twenty-year-old working in the office of a large university’s College of Engineering and loved it.  The people around me were smart and accomplished, and I was in near awe of them.  One individual whom I worked fairly closely with was a gifted editor, Andy.

There was a call for entries from an office magazine we received.  The top three submittals would garner the writer a monetary gift and publication of his or her article in the magazine.  I asked Andy what he thought of us jointly submitting an entry addressing an automation breakthrough he and I found which could benefit institutions and companies processing complex mathematical equations.  He liked the idea.

“Okay; you conduct the research and draft up the article. Then I’ll do the editing.”  He said.

I was excited and went to work on the project during my off hours.  After additional research, conducting interviews in out-of-town locations, and meticulously drafting an article within the submittal guidelines, I placed a printout of the draft in Andy’s’ “In” basket.

“Hey, thanks!” he smiled.  “I know that was a big job.”

I reminded him of the deadline for submittal, knowing he had a lot on his plate.  But we were in good shape for time with two more weeks at our disposal.  Andy would likely pounce on the article quickly, and in my immaturity I could hardly wait to see what he thought of it.

But three days went by without a word from Andy.  I stopped in and asked him how it was going.

“Oh,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand, “I’ve been really busy and haven’t had a chance to look at it.  I’ll get to it.”

I tried not to show my disappointment and time marched on without any input from Andy. When our paths crossed at work and I casually inquired about the article, he responded with, “Sorry… I haven’t looked at it yet.  I’ve been swamped.”

We were finally up against the deadline, and I was frustrated. I once more stopped in at Andy’s office.  He wrapped his hands around his head and said, “Oh, no; I’m sorry!  I completely forgot.  But I just don’t have the time to work on this!”

“What do you mean?” I responded in disbelief (while trying to sound nice).  “Andy, we agreed to do this together.  I’ve put in a tremendous amount of work and was counting on you.”

“Oh, I know, I know!” he bemoaned.  “I really am sorry, but I just can’t do it.  I’m too busy to fit it in.  You’ll just have to submit it without my edits.”

I was shocked, hurt, and angry.  And what did he do next?  Why, he swiveled his chair around so his back was facing me and began clacking away on his computer!  “Really, I’m sorry.” He muttered over his shoulder.  “I don’t have time to chat.  Just send it in; I’m sure its fine.”

There it was.  Andy was inconsiderate and untrustworthy, and I decided to throw the article away.  Without him, it was a wasted effort.

About an hour later (and still fuming), I changed my mind and submitted the article without the benefit of Andy’s’ expertise.  Postage was cheap.

Andy and I continued to have a good working relationship as the days rolled on; nevertheless, he seemed distracted.  About a month later, I received a letter from the magazine editor.  The article was selected as a winner, I was staring at a nice check, and the article was going to be published!

I knew I needed to tell Andy, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  I ended up making my way down to his office and tentatively offering, “Andy, I have something unexpected—but good—to tell you.”

He immediately stood up.  “What is it?”

I showed him the letter from the magazine and he let out a big whoop, clapping his hands ecstatically.  “I knew it!  Oh, I’m so happy!” And he gave me a huge bear hug.

I was dumbfounded.  He then told me that he’d read the draft article right after it was dropped off.  He said he was impressed with its quality and felt the worst thing he could do was co-author with me.

“If I worked with you on the submittal and it was published, I knew you’d always think it was selected because of me.  But I realized you didn’t need my help—it was a great article.  And I’m so proud of you!”

* * *

Have you ever grotesquely misjudged someone? Ugh! Why is that so easy to do?!

* * *

I was humbled to realize how Andy risked his reputation to gift another person with success.  He placed the interests of me, a punk co-worker, ahead of his own—temporarily incurring my judgement and wrath for the purpose of providing long range professional development and encouragement.  He must have been miserable for days on end, knowing what I was probably thinking of him!

When we encourage others—and I want to make this clear—we should never be untruthful, as Andy was.  But this dear man demonstrated how meaningful encouragement occasionally involves input which may frustrate the person it’s given to.

Perhaps you’ve been misunderstood and branded as unsympathetic by a few people you’ve been loving well and pouring truth into.  If so, please don’t lose heart. Instantaneous gratitude from others is less important than gifting them with something far superior to what they’d originally hoped for.

Closer to home, there may be times when truths from God and His Word are not what we ourselves are fired up about embracing. But if we stick with it, the day will come when those truths gift us with joyful humility and speechless gratitude.

Psalm 141:5 addresses our needing to be corrected at times by God and/or His people.  Have you ever stopped to think about encouragement for the long haul including correction?  Or bringing us up short?

Sunset over MountainsThe Message:  “May the Just One set me straight, may the Kind One correct me. Don’t let sin anoint my head.”

New American Standard Bible: “Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; it is oil upon the head; do not let my head refuse it…”

Good News Testament:  “Good people may punish me and rebuke me in kindness, but I will never accept honor from evil people…”

Amplified:  “Let the righteous [thoroughly] strike (correct) me – it is a kindness [done to encourage my spiritual maturity]. It is [the choicest anointing] oil on the head…”

I invite you to re-think “encouragement”.  It’s not just for the hurting or despondent.  It’s for all of us, during any and all seasons of life.  And it may come in ways we wouldn’t normally stop to think of as encouraging.

* * *

Questions for consideration:

Do you allow others to speak biblical truth into your life, even if it’s temporarily painful? Have you recently thanked God for them?

Whom do you seek to encourage? Is God’s Word central in your process? And are you willing to take risks for another’s benefit?

* * *

Proverbs 27:5-6:  Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.


People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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