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Monday, April 4, 2011

THE HEART OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Some folks seem to naturally spend their lives figuring out ways to encourage others. You probably have a few encouragers in your life. Terrific people. Trying to help make the world better by making people better or by making people be better at what they do.

Other folks need encouragement. Nothing wrong with that. They have different gifts and different ways they make the world better. You probably have a few folks like that in your life, too.

More likely all of us are a little bit of both--encouragers and needers of encouragement. Or we may be an encourager in one area of life and a needer of encouragement in others.

But everyone needs courage. Because courage is the heart of enCOURAGEment. Sometimes it takes courage to accomplish something. Like fight for what's right. Or write what's right. Or live a right life.

Sometimes it takes more than faith to live a life of faith. It takes encouragement from others whose faith is strong at the moment when your faith is weak. And then recognition that when your faith is strong, it is time to be an encourager for others.

This blog is about encouragement. For each other. For Christian writers. For Christian believers. For Christian parents and teachers who are stewards of one of God's most precious creations--children.

It starts with courage.

As a writer, I'm happiest sitting alone in my office, door closed, tapping happily at the keyboard, the cat purring in rhythm, pausing occasionally to stretch (me) or meow (the cat). The hardest part of being a published author for most of us, is the requirement that we promote our work; market ourselves. Create a "brand" for ourselves and our writing.

"No marketing!" we cry. “Leave me alone. The world can read my work and decide whether they like what I write or not. I write. They read.”

Unfortunately that's not it. Because people can't read what they can't find. And they can't find what you've written if you don't promote your work and market yourself.

Enter Internet marketing.

Yes, that's me shrieking. If I put myself out for the world to see, they'll see—gulp—me. They'll see my faults and foibles. Why should I put myself out there for scrutiny?

That takes courage.

Fortunately, I discovered something about marketing.

Marketing can be like the nerves you get before hosting a dinner party. If you focus on yourself, you'll end up a mushy glob of goop. You'll be worried that those dust bunnies under the TV will roll out precisely when your guest of honor steps past. You'll worry that you forgot to bleach that little drain hole on the inside of the sink-- the spot that’s reflected back into the bathroom mirror. <shudder> You worry that your shrimp isn't fresh; your roast is overdone; you've left the broiler on and the house will blow up. Worry, worry, worry.

But all that worry is about YOU and what you do or don't do.

What if, instead, you focus on your guests? You greet them with the attitude that they're the center of attention. Not the dust bunnies. Not the roast. Focus instead on making them comfortable, at ease and valued.

Voila! Suddenly, hosting a dinner party is no longer a worry about you. It is now a pleasure as you focus on someone else. Magic.

It can be the same with promotion. If you focus on yourself and your fears and inadequacies, it can be a mighty scary thing. And you'll need a heap of courage to get started, stay going, and be successful.

But if you make your internet presence about encouragement, the focus becomes others. You don't need courage in order to help other people find their own courage.

That gem is for you writers out there.

It’s also for the rest of us as well. When we focus on ourselves, we lack courage.

But when we focus on others, we can focus on giving others encouragement; maybe giving them the courage they need, right when they need it.

Whether you are an encourager or a needer of encouragement, the heart of encouragement is courage. Courage to give; ability to receive courage   

Let's encourage others.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? In what areas can you naturally encourage others? Do you? In what areas of life do you need enCOURAGEment? Are you getting it?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a recent "needer of encouragement" (as a very eloquent writer puts it) I have been the recipient of your selfless enCOURAGEment in too many ways to mention here. Now, so many others will come to appreciate and benefit from your gifts and talents.

"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT

To paraphrase: Tag, you're it! My turn to be the enCOURAGEr.

Thank you for the timely reminder and keep them coming. Here's to Courage!

Love & Hugs,
Viv

From Carol's Quill said...

Thanks, Vivian. You definitely are an encourager even when accepting encouragement from others!

Sheila said...

Oh, great article! Love it! I heard something similar at the ACFW conference last September and it really changed my thinking. Outer focus is key--and I try to encourage others with my blog. I can't say with my books--yet--since I'm still unpublished. I've written a YA novel, and, I hope, it helps those who read it feel less alone in their struggles.

From Carol's Quill said...

@Sheila - yes! That's it. God gave us the talent with words to encourage others. If it encourages us along the way, so much the better. YA is awesome. That age group struggles so much tottering between childhood and independence.