You would expect it to be natural for a husband and wife to encourage one another. Most couples, when they step up to the altar, have every intention of encouraging the mate.However, all too often it does not take long for one or the other to become frustrated by the actions or in action of the mate. I see couples who have been married only a few months who already have chosen frustration rather than asking the question, “How can I encourage my mate?”
Sam and Elaine are a good example. Elaine completed high school at sixteen and college at twenty. During her 21 hour semesters her senior year, Sam provided the comic relief that she needed to endure the pressure. At twenty-two Sam was only a second semester sophomore. Two weeks after she graduated they married. A week of honeymoon and Elaine started her career as a stock broker. By Christmas she had earned her first promotion and a three day New Year’s Eve all expenses paid cruise. Sam, however, completed the first semester of his junior year without enough hours to be formally a junior. As a result, Elaine told him she was not going to reward his slothfulness with a three day vacation. “I’ll take my Mon! You stay home and work. I’m sure Walmart will be glad to have you stocking shelves!”
After the holidays, they appeared in the counseling office. Sam was angry because she did not take him on the cruise. “She talked to me like I am a lazy bum!” cried Sam. “You are!” shouted Elaine.
“Whoa!” I said in a soft emphatic tone. Let’s start from the beginning. Help me understand how the two of you courted and what attracted you to each other?” Well, you can imagine that the next couple of counseling sessions were very interesting.
There are many ideas that could be brought to this discussion. However, in this simple essay I want to mention only four. These four are particularly applicable to marriage. Obviously before Sam and Elaine could begin to apply these they needed to own their own sin, seek forgiveness for the hurts they were imposing on one another and grant forgiveness. They also had to learn some communication skills so that their expectations and disappointments could be expressed in an understandable manner. Here are the four ideas implied in encourage one another (I am sure there are others).
First, be sensitive to the desires of your mate. Everyone has desires. Desires are not harmful or sinful unless we demand them (see James 4:1-3). Unfortunately our culture usually speaks of desires as needs as if they were akin to thirst for water. This culturalism breeds confusion.
Second, express appreciation to your mate and practice general good manners. Please and thank you go a long way in creating a pleasant atmosphere within the marriage. A husband who regularly expresses appreciation for the preparation and presentation of a good meal encourages his wife’s soul. A woman who leaves a note in a wallet or a lunch pail that expresses thanks to her husband for his honesty that brought him difficulties on the job is encouraging his character.
Third, extend affirmation. “You do a great job of loving me when I’m not being very lovely,” certainly encourages a husband. Or perhaps she says, “The way you firmly yet lovingly disciplined our son is very sweet to watch and I know it is good for his development,” encourages a husband to stay the course and follow through with his responsibilities. I recently had a man tell me that his wife’s encouragement helped him to not cave in to the criticism of his peers.
Fourth, it is necessary for every husband and wife to at times correct the other one. Following the lead of the Apostle Paul is wise. He always begins by affirming those whom he is going to correct. Jesus did the same thing in the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Setting correction in the context of affirmation makes it much easier for your mate to listen, not become defensive and much more likely to make the course correction.
Encouraging one another certainly is much more pleasant than criticizing one another. And, it glorifies God!