Generous or Stingy? Do you give away encouraging words?

We took our one-year-old grandson for his first ride on the Reindeer Carousel in our mall last Thursday. Many people don’t like the commercialism of the Christmas season and the fact that the Reindeer Carousel was already up and running on November 9. But I like this early reminder that Christmas is fast approaching, which causes me to ponder life, giving, and Christ’s return.

I also enjoy watching The Christmas Carol. I’m sure that most of us don’t see ourselves as a Scrooge, but is it possible that we are stingy in some ways? We usually think of a stingy person as someone who hoards his money and generally conveys a miserly attitude like the character Scrooge in the movie, but we can be stingy in other ways as well. What about our words?

Words are free, and yet some people will not let out a word of encouragement unless it slips out on its own somewhat unexpectedly!

With this early arrival of Christmas commercialism, why don’t we focus on giving away words of encouragement? Christmas can be a lonely time for many, including those who have recently lost loved ones. Why not use these visual reminders to cue us to say something positive?

Are you generous with your words?

Take this self-examination today and see how you do. Be aware of each interaction you have today. Imagine that you are Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Present. As you look at yourself as an outsider, consider:

  1. What are your natural responses with your co-workers, acquaintances, and family members? Do you generally choose to find the positive response and really mean it when you say the words? Rate your natural response to be positive and to mean what you say on a scale of 1–5, with 5 being very positive.
  2. Put yourself in the shoes of each person. What would be your reaction to the way you responded with each of them? Would you leave being more encouraged than when you came? Rate your level of encouragement on a scale of 1–5, with 5 being very encouraged.
  3. At the end of the day, determine how often you chose to use encouraging words rather than responses that were curt or said without thinking. Rate your percentage of using encouraging words in conversations on a scale of 1–5, with 5 being the highest possible percentage of positive encounters.

So, how did you do? Are you generous or stingy?

If we find that we are Scrooges, or at least have a few of Scrooge’s tendencies, we can learn something from him. Once Scrooge was aware of his actions, he immediately chose to fix them.

Choose to intentionally bless others with your words.

To get rid of our stinginess, let’s give the gift of encouraging words whenever possible. Maybe you are thinking, I can’t use encouraging words when the work is not excellent. Why should I choose to encourage that person?

Let’s look at Jesus’ example with Zacchaeus to see a clear model of how to encourage someone. Clearly, Zacchaeus was a thief. He was stealing from the whole community. What did Jesus say? Luke 19:5 (NIV) says, “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’” He didn’t ignore him or say something rude. Instead, Jesus noticed Zacchaeus and spent time with him.

Surprisingly, Zacchaeus’ response is not what we might expect. Luke 19:8 (NIV) shows his positive response: “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’”

Romans 2:4 (NIV) says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” 

When we think about it, encouraging words can breathe life into a discouraged person. God is kind to us. Jesus was kind to Zacchaeus. There’s no reason why we can’t be generous with our kind words. They are a free gift to give, and we will never run out of them. Will you be generous or stingy today?

Claudia Johnson, CWLC leadership consultant