Leaders, encourage your team members. Parents, encourage your children. Bosses, encourage your employees. Employees, encourage your clients and customers. Teachers, encourage your students.
All amazing examples of sending down, paying it forward and passing it along. Today, I want to focus in the other direction. Encouragement is not only limited to a downward flow. Encouragement can move UP, too.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate what upward encouragement looks like is to begin by turning the statements in the first paragraph around. Team members, encourage your leaders. Children, encourage your parents. Employees, encourage your bosses. Clients and customers, encourage employees. Students, encourage your teachers.
Sounds Backwards to Me
Perhaps the idea of offering encouragement up to those in leadership sounds backwards. You may be asking yourself, isn’t it the job of parents, leaders, bosses and teachers to offer encouragement? Isn’t that part of the responsibility of being in that role? Yes, I believe that is true, completely and wholeheartedly. But, encouragement is not confined to flowing in only one way.
Encouragement flowing downward is something we are conditioned and trained into. It is what we are comfortable with. It is offered most frequently in that manner.
What if we dared to be different?
What if we decided to step out of our comfort zone from our places of natural conditioning and tried something different?
What if the student wrote a card of thanks to the teacher who taught them a life lesson in addition to the curriculum lesson? What if the employee took the boss out to lunch to say thank you for the energy and effort poured into tending to the larger scale details of daily operations?
What if the child called to say how greatly they appreciated the sacrifices their parents made to afford them a variety of opportunities? What if we took the time as clients and customers to acknowledge a job well done to that staff who served us?
Joy to Be Shared
I believe that the answer to all of these “what if” questions is JOY. There is joy to be shared by offering encouragement upward, as well as downward.
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)
When we encourage up, we have the opportunity to add joy to their work. Joy in their work has spill over benefits. Benefits that somehow splash right back upon us allowing us the opportunity to share in the joy, too.
If I am an employee and I can find ways to offer encouragement to my boss, adding joy or easing a burden, it is highly likely that the resulting environment will be better for me. As a child, if I can offer encouragement to my parents I am probably going to be the beneficiary of a better relationship with them.
Encouragement will flow much easier, resulting in a greater joy, if there is a firm foundation of trust in these relationships. I am sad to acknowledge the truth that not all leaders and those in authority positions are trustworthy. But, I do hold to the hope that there are so many leaders who are trustworthy and who are trying very, very hard.
It is often the case that there is so much more to the story than we can see. The parent who is withholding the full measure of details from their children in order to protect them. The leaders who are depleted of energy, yearning for rest, but who continue to serve. The middle manager who has to take in the bad news and then deliver it directly to their employees.
Moments to offer encouragement often present themselves
in the dirtiest of circumstances.
I, I, I, Me, Me, Me
In the ugly, painful and dirty circumstances in life it is often tempting to pour our focus directly onto ourselves. Our conversations, thoughts, and actions center around I, I, I, Me, Me, Me.
I confess that I have done this more times that I can count. I like to center on me and my comfort, making decisions out of my understanding and my perspective. Many times finding out later that my understanding was limited and my perspective was obstructed. I have also been on the other side where people have decided to judge me and reject me based upon limited knowledge, understanding and perspective.
There are so many matters going on in the life of another person that we just do not know about at any given moment.
It is tempting in tough circumstances to think that our energies and efforts are not being recognized and rewarded. It is easy to ask, “why should I encourage my boss who does not give me enough opportunities to use my skills?” It is also easy to assume that “I don’t get paid enough to do that.”
Some times the sweetest, most joy filled benefits are the ones we can not measure by facts, figures and statistics. Joy is a rich intangible, but how do you measure joy?
As I write this, my dear reader, the list of the Fruit of the Spirit comes to mind – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. All of these are so intangible and hard to grasp in magnitude, size and quantity.
I believe that at the heart of encouragement lies the treasure of these intangibles. It is when we dare to be different and when we make the effort to encourage up, that we discover and release goodness, kindness, joy and so much more.
My Thanks to You
To all those in leadership positions, thank you so much for the energy, effort and expense that you pour into leading your teams. Thank you for the calls, emails and messages you pour over without response. Thank you for the times you arrive early to set up and stay late to clean up.
To all the parents, thank you so much for the time, talent and treasures that you pour into your children. Thank you for giving them what you have in the moments they need it. Thank you for all of the hopes, dreams, and projects that you sacrifice or put indefinitely on hold to bring your children up in the way they should go. Thank you for taking time away from things that may benefit yourself in the short term to benefit your children in the long term.
To all of the bosses, thank you for the strength you show when you are pressured on all sides. Thank you for your courage to directly face challenges and uncertainties. Thank you for your flexibility and adaptability when the unexpected occurs and interruptions ensue.
To all of the employees, thank you for all of the hands on work that you do. Thank you for all of the unseen tasks and responsibilities that you take the time to tend to, especially the ones that feel like they repeatedly go unnoticed. Thank you for the ways that you show up each day.
To all the teachers, thank you for the way you pass along your wisdom and experience. Thank you for all of those who teach in the classrooms and those who teach in a variety of other guises out in the corners of the world. Thank you for all of the ways that you keep learning, growing and developing yourself to pour out in techniques that will be received well.
To all of you, thank you so much for giving your best day in and day out. Thank you so much for rolling with the punches, and for working through the painful times. Thank you for getting back up after the mistakes and trying again. Thank you for making adjustments and attempting new things.
Thank you so much for joining me in an effort to offer encouragement in our corners of the world.
Thank You for all of the encouragement that You give us and the joy that comes with it. May each of us find ways to have confidence in You and submit to Your authority, for You are the ultimate leader.
I pray over each of my readers today. Lord, may they find themselves filled with joy as they are sandwiched with encouragement from all sides. Lord, may encouragement be offered down to them and may encouragement rise up in their circumstances as well. May there be endless intangible treasures to give them hope and to bring You glory, Lord.
In the endlessly encouraging name of Jesus, amen.