I was reminded this week about the power of words of encouragement when long-time friends and a sister and a brother in Christ, Canice McGovern and Craig Evans, each offered such kind words to me in their separate notes.  These words came at a time when I was fighting against discouragement, and I felt my heart lifted tremendously from these simple but powerful notes.  The Bible tells us about the power of the words we speak.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”  Additionally, Proverbs 12:25 tells us, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”    

I discovered many years ago the power of words of encouragement.  I knew from my own life just how painful it can be when there are few words of encouragement and in the bleakness of those circumstances, I can remember the few adults in my life that offered encouragement, most of whom were my teachers.  But I found out just how powerful my own words of encouragement could be when I was a young officer, just beginning my career.  I didn’t hear many words of encouragement from the leaders above and around me early in my military career because, unfortunately, most of the leaders I encountered during that period were not very good leaders.  They were quick to excoriate subordinates for their supposed failures or shortcomings, but they were very slow and stingy in offering words of praise when I, and others under their authority, did a good job or completed a mission with success. 

So I found out the power of encouraging words mostly from my own use of them on my subordinates. 
I tried as best I could to praise my subordinates and demonstratively reward their good work with encouraging words in the presence of their peers and other military leaders, and with recognition in awards, certificates, and counseling and training sessions.  I could see how much these words meant through their words of gratitude back to me, but also through reading their facial expressions and through the renewed vigor that I saw in their work afterwards.  For example, one particular young female soldier that worked for me had been slightly deficient in her job performance and in her service to soldier customers that would come through her office for assistance.  I had been thinking about how to counsel her on her shortcomings when, one day, I saw her do an extraordinarily thoughtful and proficient job in helping one customer.  I saw the added effort and the extra things she did with this customer, which was the kind of service I wanted to see in all her customer interactions. 

So, instead of counseling her on her shortcomings, I decided to call her into my office and counsel her on this one act of excellence, not even mentioning that I considered her other work as substandard.   The words of encouragement and praise had a powerful effect on her as I read the positive counseling statement to her and told her that this statement would go in her file.  I could see the immediate effect on her heart by her facial expression.  But I saw the most power from my words as I noticed that her treatment of all her soldier customers became continuously good and helpful, and this good work became the norm in her performance from that moment on.  I imagine this episode was one of God’s training moments of me, as He was teaching me about the power my own words could have on others from my position of authority as an officer.  I took the lesson to heart and tried as much as possible to deliver words of praise and encouragement on my subordinates for the remainder of my career, with the same overwhelming success in those soldiers as I had in that one young woman whom I blessed with my words early in my career.

I pray that you will discover the power of your words of encouragement to bless those around you today, and that you will receive the blessing of others’ words of encouragement in your life as well.

 


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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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