Encouragement. The atta boy/atta girl comments. Looking for things that people do well. Looking for their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Just what is the power of kindness?
We’ve all seen the stories on the news of the power of the opposite of kindness. And many of us have actually experienced it or caused it ourselves. The verbal abuse. The “shame” people heap on each other with their words. The “I love (?) you, but …” The anger. The rage. The bitterness. The unforgiveness. The abuse. Neglect. The tear-filled eyes of those who have been treated as though they don’t matter.
In David Jeremiah’s Turning Point Devotional, there’s a story about the father of legendary basketball coach John Wooden. The story is about the power of kindness. In Indiana, where Wooden grew up…“Gravel pits were scattered around the area, and farmers would often take their mules to the pits to haul out loads of gravel to use in building roads. Some pits were deeper than others, and it was sometimes tough for a team to pull out a wagon filled with gravel.”
The story goes on to explain that a young 20-something man was unable to force the team of horses to pull that load out of the pit, in spite of his whipping and yelling at them. It was an extremely hot summer day and the horses were worn out. They were frothing at the mouth and they were pulling BACK from the young man. They feared his wrath.
John Wooden’s dad said to the young man, “Let me take ‘em for you.”
“The farmer seemed relieved to hand over the reins. John watched as his dad started talking to the horses and stroking their noses with a soft touch. He slipped between them and started walking alongside them, holding their bridles and bits while talking calmly and gently to them.
“As the horses settled down, he stepped in front of them and gave a little whistle to start them moving forward as he held the reins. Within a few minutes, those two massive horses had pulled the wagon out of the gravel pit as easy as the sun coming up. John Wooden said he never forgot the lesson.”
The power of kindness. It works with horses and it works with people.
The devotional goes on to say “Nothing good comes from being difficult or demanding. A little love and encouragement can often lift others out of the pits.”
You know the Bible verse, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22 NIV) Have you met anyone that seems to make it their mission in life to actually BE those “hardships” to help you to enter the Kingdom of God? Do you have anyone in your life that has a mission to love you with “tough love” by nearly continually pointing out what is WRONG with you? It doesn’t seem to occur to them to mention what might be RIGHT with you. Our own personal “hardship” ambassador…thinking they are ambassadors for God to get us “straightened out”.
We must guard against harming one another. We are none exempt for falling into unkindness…especially when we are under any kind of stress or overtired. Any of us can so easily fall into that sin of being a discouragement to others. Abuse. Neglect. Harsh words…or worse…those things that cause tear-filled eyes of despair and discouragement…or worse.
God delights when we use our words to build others up rather than tear them down. People need encouragement. We all do. We flourish in the midst of it. Words of encouragement are life giving. They have the power to heal broken hearts. They empower people to think outside the box where they sometimes get “stuck”…unable/unwilling to move “forward”. Words have power. For good or for evil.
The power of encouragement. The power of kindness. Everyone needs someone to believe in them and to tell them so!