There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement ‘). (Acts 4:36)
Every month she would tell me how my sermons, the bulletins, or anything else around church could be improved. When she first started sharing her reports, I was thankful for her interest. After a few months, I dreaded her comments.
One Sunday, she said, “I feel like you’re avoiding me.” I knew it was time to tell the truth, so I said, “Patty, you’ve been here for about a year. During that time, you have shared your thoughts about all the things that we could do better around here, but not once have you shared something that works.” Without saying a word, she walked away.
Patty didn’t come for the next few Sundays. She then showed up at my office without an appointment. She said, “I was really angry about what you said. But when I prayed about it, I saw that I was doing to this church what my mother had done to me. I’m really sorry about only giving negative feedback. From this day forward, I’m going to be the Barnabas Guild. Like Barnabas, I’m going to be a sister of encouragement.”
From that day forward, she was. She encouraged everyone, and the difference was astounding. Her encouragement wasn’t saccharine, Pollyanna, or contrived. It was real, and she made a real difference to the morale of others.
Some people seem to like being on the Anti-Barnabas Guild. They aren’t happy unless they’re sharing their unhappiness. They say they’re only being a “devil’s advocate,” but why does the Dark One need an Advocate? Or, they justify their negativity by saying they’re “only trying to keep us on your toes,” but who can constantly be dancing on their toes?
What’s our impact on others? Are we more like the critical Patty or the Barnabas Patty? One way to know the answer to this question is to ask if people are happier to see us going or coming.
Let’s follow Patty’s lead by becoming Encouragers, not Discouragers. If we want the best for and from others, we need to spend more time encouraging them for what works than discouraging them for what doesn’t.
- Do you spend more time in the Barnabas Guild or the Anti-Barnabas Guild? More time lifting up or putting down?
- Are people more glad to see you coming or going? If it’s the latter, and if you care about the impact you make on others, what changes to your attitude, behavior, or words could make it the former?
- In order for Patty to become more encouraging, she needed some healing from how her mother had criticized her. Is there some healing you need in order for you to be more encouraging?