If you have ever visited The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., you may have had the opportunity to browse through some of the personal belongings found on Abraham Lincoln the night he was assassinated. If you did browse through those personal belongings you might have noticed a well-worn newspaper clipping lauding Lincoln’s achievements as president and describing him as, “One of the greatest statesmen of all time.”
Now if you know even a bit of Lincoln’s story, you know that he was by no means a egomaniac looking for an opportunity to pull out a headline to wow the person standing next to him. In fact, Lincoln battled self-doubt throughout his presidency, especially during the Civil War when friend and foe alike heaped criticism upon him. Lincoln carried that clipping around as an occasional personal encouragement.
I don’t know about you, but knowing that a President and national hero like Lincoln needed encouragement, helps me to admit that encouraging words spoken in the right time have great value. I have an e-mail folder that is simply labeled “Encouragement.” It contains every e-mail I’ve ever received that is an encouragement to me. Some of the e-mails are messages from someone saying thank you for a sermon, or for a moment of time given. More of them are stories of God@work, which for me is a great encouragement. Some of them contain critiques or admonition because when viewed with the right perspective, even admonition can be an encouragement. In effect it is saying… “I know you can do better.” That encourages me.
But here is the thought I’m pondering at the moment. I can’t control the words of encouragement I hear, but I can control the words of encouragement that I speak. When’s the last time you looked for an opportunity to encourage someone?
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul wrote these words,
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
As some one who has been on the receiving end of a word of encouragement well-spoken… each of us has the power for good in our words. Look for an opportunity to encourage someone this week.