Problem is, our perceived lack of encouragement from others isn't necessarily an accurate reflection of our performance. It could be that those around us:
...are envious, critical, or struggle with expressing praise.
...assume we know we are doing well & that we don't need any encouragement.
...aren't even thinking about our performance.
That last one is interesting to me. I have been challenged that the idea that everyone is evaluating me is false & maybe a little narcissistic. Truth is, people can be so self-absorbed (& concerned about how they are being perceived), that how well I'm performing hasn't even crossed their minds.
And then there's this: the fact that people's opinions about me-- whether positive or negative-- are not my guide.
If I allow my self-confidence to rise & fall on the opinions of others, I will always be like the people Paul warns Christians not to be: "immature children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Eph. 4:14, ESV).
Instead, Paul tells us to grow up into mature adulthood, "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (v. 13, 15-16).
Did you catch that last part? "When each part is working properly, [it] makes the whole body grow up so that it builds itself up in love" (v. 16b).
According to Scripture, my need for encouragement is not only legitimate, it requires group effort. That means that the popular advice to disregard what others think about me is a fractured idea. The fact is that, although others are not my guide, my brothers & sisters in Christ do play an important role in my purpose & sense of who I am.
The passage indicates that building up occurs when each part of the body of Christ is united, equipped, & working properly. In such an environment, the truth is spoken in love.
What that means to me:
- Truth is spoken; love is not silent.
- My security is not found in my ability to muster up a strong self-esteem, but in the love of Christ.
- Christ is the head of the body & the body is made up of believers, therefore my health & maturity in Christ require attachment to the body.
- As part of the body, it is my duty to do the things I am equipped to do so that the body will work properly.
I feel very empowered by this list! It tells me that I don't have to go it alone. It tells me that I'm needed. It tells me that I have value. And it tells me that I have power to affect the environment around me with my words.
The Enemy of our souls would love nothing more than for us to respond to weak or non-existent support in our lives with self-centeredness, competitiveness, defensiveness, insecurity, or the unwillingness to praise others. What a sick & dysfunctional environment that creates! What a dampening of joy, creativity, & excellence those attitudes cause.
By contrast, Scripture tells us the body of Christ is to build itself up. We fight back at that evil spirit that would have us withhold affection & encouragement when we boldly offer those things to others, just as Christ has done for us. We don't have to falsely flatter people. And we don't have to be falsely humble either. We are to speak truth in love... & speak love in truth.
When we walk in confidence, it empowers others to the do the same. When we give to others the very things we need ourselves, everyone is stronger for it. "For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment" (2 Tim. 1:7, HCSB).
My goal for 2017 is to walk in confidence-- by the spirit of power, love, & good sense-- & to bring others along with me!
Read Romans 12.
[Be] confident in this: that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6, NIV