Lessons In Encouragement


By Dr. James C. Dobson


Josh, a typical teenager in most respects, differed from his friends in at least one quite noticeable way—he had a large birthmark that covered much of his face. His unusual appearance, however, didn’t seem to affect him. Josh related well with his peers and didn’t act at all self-conscious.


A family friend eventually put his curiosity into words. “Josh, you must be aware of the large birthmark on your face,” he said. “Can you tell me why it doesn’t seem to bother you in the slightest?”


Josh smiled and said, “When I was very young, my father started telling me that my birthmark was there for two reasons: one, it was where the angel kissed me; two, the angel had done that so my father could always find me easily in a crowd. My dad told me this so many times that as I grew up, I began to feel sorry for the other kids who weren’t kissed by the angel.”


Words are an extremely potent tool, and those spoken by the people we love carry the most weight of all. Let’s heed the instruction of Scripture—“encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today” (Hebrews 3:13)—and use the power of words to bless our children at every opportunity.

An encouraging word is welcome at any time but is needed most of all after a disappointment or failure. That’s why Scripture instructs us to “encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). I’m reminded of a story about Joy, a twelve-year-old who had her heart set on making the school cheerleading squad. She practiced cheers, cartwheels, and toe-touches for weeks. Yet on tryout day, Joy’s best effort still fell short. She was crushed.


Joy’s mother had been travelling at the time. When she returned she asked, “Joy, how did tryouts go?” “I lost,” Joy answered quietly. “Really?” said her mother. She put her arms around her daughter. “Well, Joy, I am so proud of you for working so very hard, and having the courage to go out there and try!” The change in Joy was immediate.


If Joy’s mother showed the slightest disappointment or embarrassment, Joy would have felt even worse. Emotions are contagious. We tend to “catch” the reactions of those around us and incorporate their highs and lows in our own spirits.


Your children are at their most vulnerable when they endure a terrible hurt or setback. Your attention and thoughtfulness during these moments can lessen the pain and bring you closer to your kids. Like Joy’s mother, you may even find the silver lining that turns disappointment into triumph.


Over 40 years, Dr. James Dobson has been a trusted source for psychologically sound, biblically based advice to help strengthen marriages, parents and families. For more practical help and encouragement, go to www.drjamesdobson.org


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