Encouragement definitely is  more than “rah-rah” cheer-leading… but it isn’t magic.

Ever wonder why your encouragement isn’t making the impact you hoped? Here are four questions to ask yourself before you open your mouth, or take some action to encourage:

1. Am I pushing my own agenda… or blessing my spouse?

Be honest here – we all have things we’d like to see happen, changes we believe will make a difference in our marriage, and/or personal preferences in life. Encouragement is not about pushing our own agenda.

Encouragement is about blessing our spouse.

You bless your spouse by putting their needs & interests first. It’s not about you… (sorry).

2. Am I using words/language that will trigger a positive response… or something else?

There are words that may trigger a negative response.

Perhaps it’s a phrase or an absolutism like “always” or “never” that can be taken in a negative light. Sometimes our spouse has a word or concept that doesn’t sit well in their heart. (For example, I don’t use the word “deserve” in conversation with Robert because he translates it as entitlement. See Matthew 20:1-16)

Be aware – be sensitive. Use words framed to bring a positive response.

3. Is this the right encouragement… right now?

Timing is everything.

Choosing the right words is important. So is the right time to use those words. Be aware of all those outside stressors which prey on your spouse. Be aware when your spouse is receptive, and when he or she just needs some down-time where there’s nothing new to process.

Choose the best time to encourage.

4. Does this encouragement have limits?

Ask yourself if you’re putting a limit on the encouragement you give your spouse.

What’s a limit? A limit is usually phrased as an, “if this… then that” statement.

“If you do this, then I will do that.”  —“If you clean up your work space, then I’ll help you out with your hobby.” —“If you’d only put more effort in at work, then I’m sure your boss will give you the promotion.” — “You’re such a great spouse, if only you’d do this more often.” —“I love being with you when you’re like this.” — “I’m your greatest fan when you put all your effort into it.” —

This type of encouragement is like coming into the room with a ginormous balloon filled with helium. And then, just as you’re about to present it, you stick a pin in the balloon, the helium seeps out, and you fold the balloon up into a tiny square and present them with that… It’s still a balloon, but it doesn’t hold any air.

Just as we all respond best to unconditional love, the same is true with encouragement. Let your encouragement be given without condition and see the effect.


 It’s not what you do to encourage that matters — it’s why you do it! 

4 Questions Before You Encourage sm


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