Can you think of someone who has discouraged you? Now picture someone who has encouraged you. Here’s the big question. Which person resembles you?
Encouragement includes the Latin, cor, which means “heart.” An encourager breathes life into the hearts of others. A discourager sucks the life right out of them. Encouraging is imperative when leading a complainer through listening.
Encouraging the complainer means that we reveal the positive in the situation, breathing life into his heart. In essence, we offer hope. Shifting his focus from the negative to the positive provides an environment for the complainer’s anxiety to change to courage. Paul encouraged believers in Thessalonica to encourage the timid, those who focused on the negative (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Proverbs records: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25). Listening to and leading the complainer by deflecting his behavior with encouragement — in spite of his negativity — will actually bring us joy (Proverbs 15:23). The Pharisees were so focused on the negative that they had created 1,500 additional laws to protect followers from breaking the Torah. Jesus encouraged the Pharisees to see the positive with His underlying mission: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
After comforting the complainer, deflect his negative behavior and encourage him to see the positive in the situation. The focal point of his positive perspective can center on a person or task. It might capture a unique quality in the complainer or another person involved in the conflict, or focus on a benefit from the task of processing the conflict. It won’t be you encouraging the complainer; rather, it will be Christ in you.