A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.
-Proverbs 29:5 [ESV]

People thrive in an environment of encouragement. Yet many people confuse encouragement with flattery. I characterize flattery as positive words for the purpose of lifting up the one saying these words. Whereas, encouragement lifts the one receiving the words. Flattery is selfish. Encouragement is selfless.

The Bible is clear that flattery is unworthy undertaking. In Proverbs 29 it says flattery is like a net spread for the feet. It’s purpose, deep, down and within is to trip someone. It’s not pretty. It’s not worth doing.

You can find out whether you are encouraging or flattering by analyzing the outcome of your words. Do you reap the benefits of those interactions or does the other person? It is extremely important to be building others up on your teams. The saying is true: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Jesus modeled this beautifully of course. After Peter had denied Jesus three times Jesus reinstated him three times. In doing so, he commissioned (encouraged) Peter that he would be the rock that the Church would stand on. With those words and that commission you have Acts 2. This small town fisherman changed the course of history because he was empowered by encouragement.

For some people encouragement comes easily. This may be due to being confident in who God made you. You are able to recognize strength in others without feeling jealous or competitive. This is a sign of your maturity. When someone is encouraged from this type of disposition I believe it is received well. There is a feeling of the genuine.

Those who are less secure in their person need to have a tried and true method of encouragement so that flattery does not take its place. Certainly this person should work on being content in who God made them but they’re still in a place of leadership. Their team can’t wait until this leader is completely grown up in self worth. Here are some practical ways to encourage your team members. These work whether you are a professional encourager or still learning.

Be intentional. This one sums up all the following but being intentional in the beginning. You have to make the choice and plan to encourage. Before you arrive to meet with your team you must make a decision in your heart and mind that you will speak positively to people.

Choose words that are easily identifiable as positive. Words such as appreciate, pleased and proud are inviting and resonate. Being descriptive in the context of your work welcomes these ideas into the heart. Example: “I was so pleased with your tone in the second verse of song so-and-so.”  Being descriptive shows that you aren’t being general but have a specific instance in mind. That is powerful encouragement.

Stay away from words or phrases that are broad stroke ideas. Words along the lines of great or blessed are worth reconsidering. Lines like: “You blessed me today”. Or “You did a great job!”  While those are fine occasionally they don’t build up over the long haul. You have to take notice of specific things to develop a long term feeling of acceptance.

Always think a step or two beyond the moment you are in when you interact with someone. If you can recall the person’s wife or child’s name and bring that into the conversation you show you care about them more than simply the task they are performing. When you meet great people they spend enormous amounts of brain energy cataloging names during their interactions. You may say: “That is hard to do!” Yes! It is hard to do but it is in those hard things that takes someone go from good to great. It allows you to become an excellent encourager.

Learn how Jesus encouraged people. Some He with whom He was gentle. The woman caught in adultery. He didn’t chastise her He gently loved her. He wasn’t soft on sin, but soft on the sinner. Others Jesus knew could handle a firmer touch. He knew this because He lived life with them. “Thomas, stop doubting and put your hand in my side”. Jesus had the advantage of knowing the heart inside us, but we have the person of the Holy Spirit. There’s no excuse for sloppy living.

Whether you are a full-time encourager or still find flattery to be your best friend you can grow. Ask God to change your heart. As he changes it ask him to give you a heart for people. After all, God made the heart and knows how to mend it.

I would love to hear how you are intentionally encouraging your teams. Are you stuck in a routine of flattery instead of encouragement? Do you have people on your team who are stuck in that loop? What are processes that you have in place to make sure that you are encouraging your team members at each opportunity? Are you modeling encouragement or flattery? Comment or private message…

-Micah Brooks