Encouraging Words

Everyone loves to be encouraged. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I can live quite a few days on a positive comment offered by a friend or family member. But for whatever reason, too often we miss or ignore the opportunity to build up others.

Though it was first published in 1936, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is still a relevant and bestselling book—and it also includes several stories that spotlight the value of encouragement. Let me share two with you.

The first is a story about a young man named Chuck, who lived in London and aspired to be a writer. But the odds were stacked against him. Because of his family situation, he was not able to attend school much at all. His father was in jail because he couldn’t pay his debts, and the young man often knew the pains of hunger. Finally, Chuck got a job in a rat-infested warehouse, pasting labels on bottles. He roomed with two other boys in a dismal attic.

At this time in his life, Chuck had so little confidence in his ability to write that he sneaked out and mailed his first manuscript in the dead of night so nobody would laugh at him. Story after story was refused. Finally the great day came when one was accepted. He didn’t get any pay for it but the editor at least recognized him and gave him a little praise. Chuck was so happy that he wandered aimlessly around the streets with tears rolling down his cheeks.

The praise and recognition that he received through getting one story in print changed his whole life. If it hadn’t been for this word of encouragement, he might have spent his whole life working in rat-infested factories. But this praise made the difference, and you now know him by whom he became . . . the famous author Charles Dickens.

Carnegie tells a second story that spotlights the value of encouragement. Getting up at 5:00 a.m. to work a 14-hour day as a clerk at a dry goods store in London, the young boy named Herbert found it sheer drudgery. After two years he could stand it no longer, so he pleaded with his mother, who was working as a housekeeper, for a change.

Herbert then wrote a long, pathetic letter to his old schoolmaster declaring he was heartbroken and that he no longer wanted to live. The old schoolmaster gave him a little praise and assured him that he really was very intelligent and fitted for finer things and offered him a job as a teacher.

This praise made a huge difference in Herbert’s life, changed his future, and eventually made a lasting impression on the history of English literature. For this boy went on to earn more than $1 million dollars by writing numerous bestselling novels. You’ve no doubt heard of him, Herbert George Wells, better known as H. G. Wells, author of such novels as The Time MachineThe War of the WorldsThe Invisible Man, among several others.

The principle that I draw from these two stories is simply this: Praise everything you can in someone else; be lavish in your praise. The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV).

How have you been bolstered by encouragement—from a teacher, pastor, friend, or family member? Who in your world needs a word of encouragement today?

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