Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Musings ~ The Power of Encouraging Words

In high school I sang second soprano in the choir. Every year, we competed at state events, often walking away with the top prize.

It would not have been possible without our director, Mr. Llewellyn.

Mr. Llewellyn possessed tremendous musical talent, but I remember him most for his ability to encourage.

When competition rolled around, we knew it meant learning an elaborate and complex piece—usually something in Latin—and dread fell among us. But Mr. Llewellyn never dwelled on the difficulty of the piece, nor did he allow us to hear the piece before handing us the sheet music to sight-read.

Pressing the piano keys for beginning pitches, he’d snap his hands into the air and off we went, trying frantically to match foreign words with strange notes.

On a good day, our first attempt sounded precisely like a train wreck. But when the final note lay quiet, Mr. Llewellyn began working his magic. Striking himself in mock rhapsody, he would declare how marvelous we were. Could we imagine how awesome this was going to sound?

Frankly, no. We were convinced it was hopeless.

But not Mr. Llewellyn. Each agonizing attempt thereafter brought words of encouragement from our director, injecting something invisible into us, convincing us that we were on the brink of knocking his socks completely off!

How is it that a few words of encouragement can make even the weariest soldier feel like taking on the world?

Within a few weeks, we sounded larger than life. And by the time competition rolled around, we burst onto the stage—confident and unwavering. That is how we won competitions. And it all started with an encouraging word.

Encouragers seem few these days. Parents criticize children who fail to measure up to their standards. Neighbors bicker across the fence. Husbands and wives spend grueling hours at jobs, seldom hearing a simple, “Thank you for your hard work,” from anyone.

Perhaps you think your few words of encouragement would be meaningless. Think again.

Many years ago, my husband received a card in the mail. A young woman wrote to say how much he had influenced her life. “It was because of your encouragement,” she wrote, “that I ever considered going to college. Thank you.”

Today, she is an educator in the school system. What might she have done with her life had it not been for an encourager—someone who said, “I believe in you. You can do it”?

It was King Solomon, in the Book of Proverbs, who said, "The power of life and death are in the tongue.” Indeed! Words may not break our bones, but they can break our spirits, leaving us feeling worthless and inadequate. By the same token, words can empower and motivate, transforming the downcast into the most enthusiastic beings.

Like ripples from a pebble tossed into the quiet waters of a pond, encouraging words awaken something dormant and silent in the center of an individual, triggering a circle of motion that brings with it renewed energy and fortitude for tomorrow's grueling tasks.

All of us, in a curious way, have the power to shape the future. For every day we decide what words we will speak. What will we say to our children, to our spouses, to our associates and to our friends? Will we speak words that lift them up, motivating them into overcoming obstacles and fears? Or will we speak words of criticism and contempt, tearing them down, and destroying their ability to believe in themselves?

One thing is sure: Whichever words we choose to speak, the end result will be forthcoming—to bless us, or curse us.

This column appeared in the Beaumont Enterprise on Sunday, September 26, 2010, and previously in The Dallas Morning News. All rights reserved.



  1. Wow. Thanks for this, Dayle. I needed to read these words today.

  2. This was soo good, and I honestly believe truer words are seldom spoken. It usually doesn't even take that much to leave a little encouragement to those around you. Yesterday my little grand daughter (she's in KG) was reading her little pile of sight words to me and she was soo pleased with herself. And I told her how well she was doing and how soon it would be and she would be reading books to her little brother and sister etc. She smiled at me sooo big and said, "Oh Grandma I could, couldn't I?" Encouragement goes such a long way. Have a wonderful day. HUGS, Debbie

  3. I'm a big believer in encouragement. People in my life have encouraged me and in my turn I try to encourage others.

    Just last week I mailed off a little note thanking my music director at church for her encouragement. She's much like your Mr. Llewellyn. I came to music late and with a lot of failures under my belt, believing that God meant me to enjoy music but not to perform it. But this amazing woman is so encouraging, not only to me, but to our entire handbell and choir group including my two daughters who don't have choir or band or any other music classes at school.

  4. Nice piece, Dayle. Surely there is power in the tongue. It can be balm or acid. Thanks for the reminder. Susan

  5. Dayle,
    Sometimes I can't believe the coincidences that just seem to happen. I was coming over to say thank you for your encouraging words on my MicrofictionMonday when I read your column on encouragement. Loved it!


  6. I agree wholeheartedly with this philosophy, Dayle! Words of encouragement cost so little but mean so much.

  7. This may be the most important thing I read all day! ...
    Loved your reference to a train wreck; I needed to smile right about now!

  8. Perfect timing for me!!! I'm feeling a bit discouraged about something lately, and your (beautifully written) post reminds me that if encouragement is important to me, it is important to others too. I think the perfect antidote to discouragement is to look for someone else to encourage.

    Great, great post. This was my favorite part:

    "Like ripples from a pebble tossed into the quiet waters of a pond, encouraging words awaken something dormant and silent in the center of an individual, triggering a circle of motion that brings with it renewed energy and fortitude for tomorrow's grueling tasks."

  9. Great post Dayle,
    My prayer is to always speak life and not death. I don't think any of us realize how what we do and say can change other's life. I am sure your dh didn't know how much he was influencing this young ladies life in such a positive way. I know the letter really meant a lot to him. Makes all of the trials worth while!Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and inspiring post.

  10. Beautiful post and sadly so true. My mother in law was the best encourager and she is dearly missed in the lives of her loved ones. A word kindly spoken is rare in our high paced world but you are so can start with us. Blessings, Patty

  11. How strange I should run across your blog. Divine intervention perhaps? You may remember me from church although our family moved from Houston probably around the time you came. I'll never forget being a shy, wobbly, weak kneed, little girl at 12 and wanting to join the choir. 12 was the magic number to join and I couldn't wait. Imagine my horror when the director announced we would sing solo for try outs! I could barely get a sound out of my throat. However pitiful it might have been, the director was encouraging. Somehow I lived through it and became a full fledged member of the choir! Tell the director, your husband, thank you for his encouragement. Although singing is not my greatest talent, I've actually sang solos in front of large congregations. Happy and content listening to others now, I just want to be an encourager. That's my greatest talent.
    Great post!
    I'm now a new follower.

  12. Hi
    Thank you for visiting My Cozy Corner. I too had a choir director that was so wonderful. In fact I just saw him at a 50th class reunion on Oct 3, 2010. I thought he was older in school, but is was young. And, today he is amazing.

  13. Dayle,
    You are certainly blessed to have had such a wonderful encourager in your life! It's a great reminder and such a simple thing to do to make a lasting impression on someone's life! Have a blessed week! Victoria Lynn


Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle