Being an encourager

“I can’t hit the broad side of a barn,” I lamented. “I’ll look like a fool.” I was chatting with my cousin, Lloyd. He had come out to the farm for his usual summer visit. I had been expressing anxiety about playing slow-pitch with a group of guys at my new job.

“We rise by uplifting others.”

— Robert Ingersoll, American lawyer, Civil War veteran, politician and orator

“I can’t hit the broad side of a barn,” I lamented. “I’ll look like a fool.”

I was chatting with my cousin, Lloyd. He had come out to the farm for his usual summer visit. I had been expressing anxiety about playing slow-pitch with a group of guys at my new job. When asked to play, I had agreed but immediately regretted my decision. I was not what you might call athletic and couldn’t throw a ball to save my life. I couldn’t think of a way to graciously back out of my agreement. It looked as though humiliation would be inevitable.

Later that day, Lloyd showed up with a softball and glove.

“Come with me,” he said.

I laughed when Lloyd led me around to the broad side of our old hip roofed barn. There on the wall he had nailed a piece of tin and in the centre he had spray painted a yellow bull’s-eye.

“I’m going to help you hit the broad side of the barn,” he declared.

Lloyd is and always has been an encourager. Quick with a kind word or a much-needed piece of advice. And what truly amazed me about Lloyd was that he was absolutely genuine. His praise, his advice and, most importantly, his encouragement was honest — from the heart.

Honest encouragement can help us to feel empowered. It can fill us with hope. It can open us up to the possibility of good things to come. Honest encouragement builds our self-esteem. Think about the last time you needed a little encouragement. Whom did you call or talk to? Doubtless, someone who made you feel talented, capable and good about yourself.

Let’s face it. Life can be really tough at times. There have been occasions when I’ve found myself right there on the edge ready to give up on a relationship, a friendship or job. I’ve been to that point where I felt I couldn’t take it anymore and I’m sure you’ve been there too.

Often, the thing that kept me going – prevented me from giving up – was a simple word of encouragement. Now understand, offering encouragement doesn’t mean sympathizing with someone or saying something nice to them. To encourage is to inspire with confidence, to offer hope and courage. This help can take the form of a kind word, a hug, a letter, a note, a text, a phone call or an email – an offer to teach someone the proper way to throw a ball.

Long ago, when I first shared my idea for a self-esteem column, I was met with opposition. That surprised me. Friends talked about it being an overwhelming responsibility. Some told me the idea couldn’t be sustained. Someone actually told me I’d soon lose interest and quit.

I had the good fortune of meeting with an editor who was intrigued by the idea and who encouraged me to put together a proposal. I did and Extreme Esteem was born. That meeting was a decade ago and I have never lost interest nor become discouraged or quit. All it took was someone to express an interest and encourage me to put my worthy idea into action.

When delivered with sincerity, encouragement provides a genuine boost of hope and a glimpse of what is possible for us. It doesn’t need to be a micro-motivational speech, though I’ve received and delivered a few of those over the years. Honest encouragement reminds us that we can accomplish something great despite what the naysayers might believe.

When well considered, our words can have tremendous impact on the people around us. The best encouragers model courageous behaviour. They live their values every day. Encouragers tell us it’s possible to achieve our goals and when we watch them, we know it’s true.

Encouragers know that telling people to suck it up or get over it does little good. In fact, such blunt statements often discourage courageous action and damage another’s self-esteem. Not that we don’t all need a dose of honesty sometimes, but our words must be chosen carefully.

Encouragers know how to listen. Encouragers are willing to set aside time and forego agendas and judgments. True encouragers hear what you’re saying. They listen heart to heart.

And perhaps, most importantly, true encouragers (like Lloyd) are honest. They’re not going to blindly tell you that you can do it or you’ll be great.

Encouragement goes deeper than that — it’s about seeing the truth of other people, especially when they cannot see it themselves.

One of the most rewarding things you can do is encourage people you don‘t know. Have a nervous or slow cashier? Maybe a server that’s trying hard to please but struggling? Tell him or her that you’re not in a hurry and that you appreciate the effort.

Years ago, I encountered a cashier at a large department store who was so nervous she was nearly in tears. She apologized profusely saying, “This is my first day.” This poor woman was so downtrodden that I just wanted to tell her that I understood. That everything would be OK. And I did just that.

As for my cousin, Lloyd, he spent a great deal of time demonstrating proper throwing techniques. Over the next week, he corrected and encouraged me and I slowly began to improve. With practise, I was able to move farther and farther back from the target and still hit it consistently. When I finally did play slow-pitch with the colleagues, I enjoyed the experience. I felt confident. And Lloyd was there shouting words of encouragement from the bleachers.

“A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life,” wrote American author and speaker, John C. Maxwell. “A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.”

To whom should you offer encouragement? The simplest answer is everyone.

Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at

Just Posted

Count shows slight decrease in Red Deer’s homeless

In two years, the number of homeless in Red Deer has decreased… Continue reading

Remains of all eight Bruce McArthur victims now identified: Toronto police

Toronto police say they’ve now recovered and identified the remains of all… Continue reading

Manslaughter case in court

Manslaughter charge was laid more than a year after alleged victim died in Red Deer

Ottawa announces $26M for noise reduction research to help right whales

HALIFAX — Ottawa has announced $26.6 million in funding for research to… Continue reading

Get your guilty pleasures: Westerner Days food

Traditional sugary treats were served up by the plate, bowl and bucket… Continue reading

WATCH: Cirque ZUMA ZUMA puts on a show at Westerner Days

ZUMA ZUMA performs three times a day during Westerner Days

Divers hunt for 4 after Missouri duck boat sinks, killing 13

BRANSON, Mo. — Divers are searching Friday for four people still missing… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer’s noxious weeds are a goat’s dietary delight

Piper Creek Community Garden gets chemical-free weed control

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

From hot to not? The Baloney Meter weighs in on Scheer’s economy claims

OTTAWA — “Justin Trudeau inherited a booming economy, but he’s squandering it.… Continue reading

Scathing suicide inquiry finds gaps, shortcomings at Royal Military College

OTTAWA — Members of a board of inquiry into three suicides at… Continue reading

Premiers strike deal to allow increased flow of beer, alcohol across borders

ST. ANDREWS, N.B. — Canada’s premiers are set to wrap up their… Continue reading

Trump ready to hit all Chinese imports with tariffs

President Donald Trump has indicated that he’s willing to hit every product… Continue reading

Canada’s annual inflation rises 2.5% thanks to boost from higher energy prices

OTTAWA — The country’s annual inflation rate rose 2.5 per cent in… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month