Why I keep an Encouragement File
It has been some years now that I have this tiny file buried in my preferred note-taking software. I called this file the "Encouragement File."
I first heard of this from Ron Edmondson. Then I saw Carey Nieuwhof talk about something similar as well. Around the same time, I remember reading a pastor’s letter to his church and family. In it, he explained a deep sense of discouragement. His example penetrated my soul and I realized that from time to time I would also get into seasons in my life where all there was, was discouragement.
A lot of stuff discouraged me. A lot of stuff still discourages me.
When my boss doesn’t tell me I’m doing a good job.
When I get an email from a leader expressing their discontent.
When I preach and I hear “that message didn’t really connect with me”.
When I’m in a conversation and someone talks about another preacher, and says, “he’s such a great preacher…oh, but we appreciate you too”
When someone says “here comes the “pastor”, let’s change the subject”.
Just to name a few.
Humans have an innate sense of survival. If you throw someone in the middle of the ocean, and this person doesn’t know how to swim. His innate will to survive will start kicking and paddling with his hands in an attempt to breathe. Even if he doesn’t want to survive, his body will automatically kick and tick, his lungs and brain will try to automatically breathe without the person’s permission. This is the reason why when the person is taken out of the water, they will find water in his lungs, because his body innately, without the person’s permission tried to breathe.
That was me when I started this Encouragement File. It was my soul’s attempt to survive some of the hardest seasons of my life. Discouragement at its worst. Low self-esteem. Anxiety.
And this is something we all experience at some point in our lives.
So, I thought I would create something practical that can help me. I thought I would create a place where I would save some of the most encouraging things I would hear or read about myself. This file would help me to remember that it was all worth it.
That’s how the Encouragement File was created.
In it, I started adding some encouraging emails I would get.
Cards that would come in the mail.
Comments or messages of those who had said to me that I was helpful.
The ones that say I have made a difference in their lives.
The ones that say that my message lifted them up.
The ones that say my stories have given them hope.
I don’t get many of them to be honest.
But I do get some.
And those are valuable.
And the few I get, I save.
I do this because of one simple reason; I get discouraged.
And when I get discouraged, I go back to this file and start reading.
My eyes fill with tears every time.
I am reminded that if I die tomorrow, I know I made a difference in someone.
Then I think that if I was able to help someone, maybe I can help another. This is what Viktor Frankl describes as being the Will to Meaning. No longer do I experience the Will to Survive, but now it has become the Will to Meaning — the ability to believe that there is still meaning, yes, even in the hardest moments of your life.
And then I get up.
I take a shower.
I dress up.
I get a haircut.
And continue to work. Hoping that as I continue to try, to the best of my abilities, to the best of my knowledge, and through my very limited skills, then I will be able to be of assistance, help, and hope to someone else.
This Encouragement File reminds me that I am blessed. And when I see how blessed I am, I realize I need to be a blessing to others now.
What I have learned from this file
It has been over 7 years since I started this file. So, here are a few things I have learned from it. I omitted the names of the people for privacy purposes. I only showed my wife’s name because I want you to see that the people that always tell you how much they love you are usually taken for granted.
1. People appreciate me more than I think.
“I appreciate you. You’ve always been a role model for me since the Youth Ministry days. I need some guidance from you.. maybe (if you can) we can meet one day or even between services.”
2. I make a difference more than I think.
“Bro for reals, you are a bad a$@. For reals man, what you bring to the table has increased the value of who we all are as a church and as individuals. I’m proud to call you my brother, my friend.”
3. I am loved more than I think.
“I love you with all my heart." — Nidia Gonzalez
4. Some things that I would think were insignificant, but I still did apparently were significant to others. So keep on doing what you think is insignificant but you know it’s important:
“Thank you for always being available to encourage me.”
5. What God has placed in my heart is not for everyone, but it may be for someone. Keep on sharing what God has placed in your heart.
“When I can’t sleep I go through your page and read the articles and posts you do because they are always insightful and encouraging thanks for posting them. They help sleepless people.”
6. Sometimes my messages do help someone.
“You did an amazing job preaching last Sunday.”
7. All the hard work of teaching many Bible studies throughout the years has helped someone:
“You are an awesome friend. I always talk about our life studies and invite people to come and hear the greatest teacher!”
“It’s an honor and privilege to have gone to your Bible studies.”
There are a few other ones that I will keep to myself since they are more personal. But I hope you get the point of what I am trying to say here.
I have also learned that discouragement comes when you make it about yourself. It really is better to give than to receive. Even though receiving sometimes feels nice, it’s always going to be better to give than to receive because when you give you secretly receive.
Every time I read this encouragement file I realize how much people love me, appreciate me and have given to me, even if it was just their timeless awesome words of encouragement. And the interesting thing is this; after reading all these compliments and encouragement, I cannot but stop thinking about how much more encouraging I should be. This encouragement file, after reading most of it, makes me feel selfish, and therefore keeps me humble, and it moves me to be more encouraging.
And that brings me to my last point:
8. I have learned that living a selfless life, one in which you give more than you receive, one in which you encourage more than you are encouraged, one in which your life becomes an open window where people can reach in and grab whatever they want – yes, regardless of whether you feel good or not, encouraged or not, happy or not – because you never know who’s life you are impacting, this type of living is always going to be better.
“I started going to Guillermo and Nidia’s Life Group The first night I went there I was hooked. So much life was in the group. The stories he would teach from the Bible were graphic and in depth. After everyone left I got a chance to ask Guillermo questions. I put myself into a vulnerable place with him. Telling him my story and the current state I was in. Asking for help. Then Guillermo started pouring life into me. Sharing stories of their past and where God has brought them. That night I was there until 3 in the morning. He would share the Bible with me. For many more months I would tell him a situation feeling I had. Yet there would always be something in the Bible to confirm that I would be okay. I felt comfortable. I would look forward to drive a hour to go to Life Group every week. That support I had, built confidence. Every time pain, worry, and doubt would enter my head, I would remember everything Guillermo would share with me. Built this umbrella of protection on my life. There is nothing I can say or think that they could’ve done differently at that time. It was such a blessing to me and was a very important time of my life. These experiences have taught me how to be an example of Christ. Guillermo was never selfish or misleading. Even though I would eat his food. stay in the extra bedroom, be there until 4am some nights. He and his wife would serve me week in and week out. Looking back I was at my end. Ready to give up. Then Guillermo and Nidia where there. If I could be that person to support someone like Guillermo and Nidia were to me. Would make it all worth it.”
The moral of the story? When you feel discouraged, remember all the people that do love you and appreciate you, and when you do, don’t be selfish, instead be humble, and start encouraging others. This has helped me feel encouraged.
Speaking of encouragement, I want to encourage you to create your own Encouragement File.
If you do create one, let me know, I want to reply back with something encouraging that you can add to your file.
Also, if this has been helpful to you, would you mind sharing it with others? You never know who is in need of something like this.
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