Picture this: you are cruising along on the highway and your car, Umberto, breaks down. After the car is towed and dismantled and analyzed, the mechanic calls and tells you good news: It’s fixable! He then tells you the price, and you promptly pass out on the floor.
You are panicking. You can’t afford this. You’ll have to abandon Umberto. How are you going to get to work? The gym? The library? CHICK-FIL-A?!?! You take to Instagram and share a picture of yourself staring mournfully at your useless car, with a caption full of grief-y hashtags: #broke #stranded #whyme #ripumberto
When your Uber drops you off at work the next morning, you trudge to your desk. But what’s this! There’s an envelope on your desk! You look inside and see a fold of bills. You read the sticky note inside…the cash is from your coworkers. “We saw your post on Instagram and wanted to help, no strings attached,” the note reads.
The exact thing you needed, at the exact right time. You sigh. You pick up the envelope.
And you throw it in the trash.
No, not the trash, the shredder. You make sure that sucker is buried in paper and will never see the light of day.
What?! Who in their right mind would do this? Oh I’ll tell you who does this…we do. All the time. With a little thing called the gift of encouragement.
(Is this a good time for a mic drop? I really want to do a mic drop.)
The gift of encouragement is a powerful tool of the Holy Spirit that often goes ignored or denied. It’s powerful in that, like the cash in the envelope, God often sends it when it’s the right gift at the right time. He is the one who created you, so He knows what you’re going through and what you need to hear. As a bonus, it is a gift both to the giver AND the receiver. When we are the receiver, those words are a shame extinguisher; when we are the giver we get to see the healing power of godly words at work…if the gift is accepted.
But it doesn’t always feel good, right? I mean, think about the last time someone gave you a compliment. Did your shoulders go up to your ears? Did you explain it away? Did you awkwardly laugh? Did you shoot back a sarcastic barb to create some distance?
…did you take the gift and throw it in the trash?
That itchy feeling you get when someone says something good about you, TO you? That’s probably shame. Shame and encouragement cannot coexist in the same place. The acceptance of encouragement extinguishes shame, and shame knows that. It’s always going to push back. Shame is that voice that whispers, “They don’t mean that…they say that to everybody…you’re not good at anything…you’re not worth anything…”
The longer shame goes unchecked, the more space it takes up. And the more space it has, the louder it gets. And there’s a way to beat it, but reader, it’s tough: you gotta start trusting that God thinks good things toward you. You’ve got to start trusting that other people think good things toward you. And you’ve got to start accepting gifts.
You start stacking those gifts up inside, and shame starts to get shoved out. It loses its place, and its voice gets softer. Accepting those gifts is a choice to believe that God is true and right, and shame disappears in the face of such faith.
My struggle with shame originated with years of traumatic experiences, and I know how debilitating it can be. It took years to undo the bind of shame, and I’m still working on it, but it has been worthy and fruitful work.
Want to join me on the other side of shame? Here are some simple ways to practice accepting the gift of encouragement:
- Say “thank you” when given encouragement…full stop! Don’t belittle it or try to explain it away. It’s okay to grin awkwardly or start whistling while you’re learning how to do this.
- Do your own Bible study…list verses that are statements of what God thinks of you and says of you.
- Make 1 John 3:1 personal and say it aloud to yourself every day for a week: “See what great love the Father has lavished on me, that I should be called a child of God! And that is what I am!” Pray that God will give you the faith to trust His word.
- Get brave and make a list of 10 things that you do well
- Get brave again and make a list of 10 things you like about yourself
- Ask a close and trusted friend what they admire about you. Did you just say to yourself, “There’s nothing admirable about me”? THEN CHOOSE THIS ONE! 🙂
The God who created sunrises and weeping willows and puppy cuddles created you too. And He used only the good stuff.
Time to start believing it. ❤