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Cindy Bargell: Encouraging words

by Cindy Bargell

Where never is heard, a discouraging word … (and the skies are not cloudy all day).

I think it would be really great if our home on the Summit County range resembled this old song. With Mother Nature finally cooperating on the cloudy part, I figured I should do my part on discouraging words, probably because I have been inundated lately with subtle reminders of the less-than-subtle impact of our encouraging words.

Just last week, a veteran encourager reminded me that words of encouragement always have a positive return, even if not immediately apparent. This individual often hears that his encouragement has spurred someone on to accomplish great feats, or that it was life changing. For him, encouragement is a habit, and he admits he sometimes does not recall the precise words or the moment the encouragement took shape. The lack of specific memory does not matter. What matters instead is he took the time to inspire someone to be their best, and lo and behold, it happened.

The fact that something still exists in the world that has positive returns should, in and of itself, be encouraging. Couple that with the fact it’s both simple and free (two of my favorite things), I wonder why I don’t avail myself of encouragement opportunities more often. Often, it’s just plain easier to criticize or complain. It even seems in vogue these days to hone a razor sharp wit at someone else’s expense. And, of course, there are those days when nothing seems to go right – you know the ones – when Murphy’s Law seems optimistic. Take the other day, for example. Just when I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, and clearly not likely to uplift those around me, it happened. A friend took a moment to pass along an encouraging word. By a moment I am being literal, merely 10 seconds, in passing, in a parking lot. Her words helped the clouds start to lift, and I realized what immense impact just a small dose of encouragement can have on those around us.

Appreciative of the words that turned around an otherwise gloomy day, I started to consider how I could develop my encouragement skills. How about a National Encouragement Day? Nice idea – already taken. Several years ago a group of students attending a leadership conference identified the items they thought were the biggest stumbling blocks to higher achievement in their schools. You might expect drugs or distraction. Nope, instead it was plain old fashioned discouragement. To address the issue head on, they began to advocate a National Day of Encouragement. On September 12 these students, along with others from schools around the country, will take part in a National Day of Encouragement. To avoid being discouraged that I did not come up with the idea first, I still may consider lobbying for participation. After all, if there’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19, why not a day (or month, even) to encourage? And, just think what a fun the month of September will be if we all encourage each other to talk like a pirate.

Encouragement should not be confused with praise. Praise reflects your judgment of an individual or their accomplishments. We all know praise when we hear it, and well-placed praise has its place in the world. It does not always have the same impact as encouragement. Consider the word encourage. To en-courage someone is to inspire them with courage, to give them strength of purpose. Before I started writing for fun, I received a book from a friend called “The Courage to Write.” She did not inspire me by telling me that she thought my PTSA letters were boss. Instead, she knew somewhere, deep within, I must have a desire to write and gave me a book to encourage me along the way.

In doing a bit of research on encouragement, I unearthed some rules penned by author and business leader John Maxwell. Maybe if we all took one to heart we too could turn around someone else’s day.

Rule No. 1: Encouragers commit themselves to giving others encouragement daily.

Rule No. 2: Encouragers know the little difference that separates hurting and helping.

Rule No. 3: Encouragers initiate the positive in a negative environment.

Rule No. 4: Encouragers understand life is not a dress rehearsal. Or, to reframe Aesop, no act of encouragement, however small, is ever wasted. Encouragers don’t wait until tomorrow or some other better day to help people – they act now.

So, here we are: where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play. You know the rest.

Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at cindy@hoglevisani.com.


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