Less than Helpful

Less than Helpful

Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it. Acts 13:15

In one of my multiple attempts – and failures – at finding recovery, I met a counselor who was responsible for preparing addicts to leave treatment. He would ask us about our relapse prevention plan, and we were supposed to provide a structured outline of what we were going to do to continue working on recovery. The group I was with wasn’t very motivated though and most of the guys said they were just fine and weren’t going to go to meetings or do anything. As a counselor, I expected him to challenge this, but in an attempt to encourage, he would simply tell them that they were doing great. Keep up the good work. You’ve got this!

They didn’t have it though. They were addicts whose plan was to do nothing, which was a terrible plan. Encouraging them to continue on their path was less than helpful.

I’ve done this though. I’ve worked with those who needed to be told they’re on the wrong path and I’ve wanted to help. Not wanting to confront or create conflict though, I’ve mistaken placation for encouragement. I’ve desired to say something helpful, but instead, I’ve said something appeasing. Hey, you’re doing great. Keep it up. Encouraging someone though, doesn’t necessarily mean telling him to continue down the path he’s on. If he’s on the wrong path, telling him to keep going is actually harmful.

In today’s passage, Paul was asked to provide words of encouragement to the synagogue in Antioch. He didn’t tell them they were doing great or cheer for them to continue. Instead, in love, he told them the truth. He told them of the forgiveness and freedom that could be found in Christ alone, and he encouraged them to repent, turn around, and believe. He encouraged them, but he encouraged them in the right direction.

We often think of encouragement as saying only things that make others feel good about where they’re at and what they’re doing. True encouragement though, as Paul demonstrated, is emboldening those around us to do what’s right. Mollifying others just to avoid conflict is simply helping them to continue down a path of destruction. In doing this, we’ve enabled and have become part of the problem. A true encourager leaves others wanting to be better than they’ve been.


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