Every woman is given a power that can bring about change, growth, and the fulfillment of potential in another person, especially a significant man in her life.
There are many women who try to encourage the men in their lives, and even think they are doing so. But it’s difficult to be an encourager if we don’t understand what encouragement really means.
To be an encourager you need to have an attitude of optimism. The American Heritage Dictionary has one of the better definitions of the word. It’s a “tendency or disposition to expect the best possible outcome, or to dwell on the most hopeful aspect of a situation. When this is your attitude or perspective, you’ll be able to encourage others. Encouragement is to “inspire; to continue on a chosen course; to impart courage or confidence.”
Encouragement is recognizing the other person as having worth and dignity. It means paying attention to them when they are sharing with you. It’s listening to them in a way that lets them know they’re being listened to.
The road to a person’s heart is through the ear. Men and women today have few people who really listen. When someone is talking most of us are often more concerned about what we are going to say when the other person stops talking. And this is a violation of Scripture. James tells all of us, men and women alike, to “be a ready listener.” Proverbs 18:13 states, “He who answers a matter before he hears the facts, it is folly and shame to him.”
Sometimes in an attempt to be an encourager, you end up crossing the line and become a pleaser. But that’s not the only line that can be crossed. We need to consider the worst things you could do for you and for him.
Avoid becoming a controller in your relationship and also avoid letting yourself be controlled. Sometimes one partner ends up being smothered by the other. Allowing this to happen is no way to encourage someone! If you end up letting the other person control you, the result is you end up feeling unnecessary. Total dependence on another is not the way Christ has called us to live. Jesus has called us to equality, not domination. Jesus called us to willingly serve one another, not just one to serve the other.
From the passage in Ephesians 5:22-31 and from the creation account, it’s possible to discover what a husband needs from his wife. As we look at the early chapters of Genesis we see he needs a woman of strength, a helper who will respond to his leadership as he sets out to subdue and populate the earth, Nancy Groom in her book Married without Masks states, “Adam (even after the Fall) would have been disappointed if Eve had refused to engage with him as his partner in the work God had called both of them to do. He did not need a slave; he needed a woman who knew who she was and was confident in her gifts. An alive, vibrant woman gives zest and excitement to her husband’s life. He needs that.”
Remember this fact: One of the main causes for the death of love on the part of one person for another is when their partner controls and dominates them.
Look at what God’s Word says: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither slave not free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28, NASB).
Servanthood is the model of leadership that Jesus is teaching. Remember that the only way that you can really encourage another person in a healthy way is to be sure that you encourage yourself. And you can do this because of knowing who you are in Jesus Christ.
The best way to be healthy as well as to be an encourager in a relationship is to be healthily independent or interdependent. The person whose identity is found through others often ends up with relationships that are addictive.
• Dependency in relationships is not a Christian calling except for being dependent upon God, which all men and women are called to be.
• An independent woman thrives on individuality, few restrictions, and self-gratification. She finds her identity through herself.
• But there is a third option called interdependence. The interdependent woman has a strong sense of personhood and bases this upon being affirmed by God. She knows she has been given gifts and is willing to use them, but she can also rely upon others. This woman views others as her equal and also values herself. Are you dependent, independent, or interdependent woman?
In Free to Be God’s Woman, Jan Congo gives four options in which to view ourselves and others. A dependent woman says, “I am nothing and you are nothing,” or “I am nothing but you are a person of worth and dignity.” The independent woman says, “I am a person of worth and dignity.” The independent woman says, “I am a person of worth and dignity but you are expendable.” The interdependent woman says, “I am a person of worth and dignity, and you are a person of worth and dignity.”
The interdependent woman allows herself and others the freedom to grow and be in process. She has role flexibility. She is relying on God’s expectations for herself rather than others. She enters into relationships with others but she does not restrict them nor is she responsible for them. She discovers the value of commitment.
This is best summarized by Jan Congo:
The very word commitment grinds on many eardrums today in this independent, self-centered society of ours. Yet it is only after we have committed ourselves to the God of love that we can commit ourselves to care for others and identify with them in their various stages of growth.
We refuse to make others either our projects or our heroes. Instead we choose to walk, as much as is humanly possible, where they have walked, to laugh and weep with them, to be available to them, to be as gentle with them as Jesus Christ is with us and to be vulnerable to them, demonstrated by our willingness to speak the truth in love about ourselves when we are with them. I choose to back up my words with an authentic lifestyle. In relationships I am willing not only to give but also to express my needs honestly and receive from others.
We are one of the best means of getting God’s life and love to others. Jesus is our source of strength so never do we purposely choose to have others become dependent on us. In all of our relating, we must remember that the purpose is for Christ to be formed in you and in me (Galatians 4:19). If we find ourselves imitating anyone but Christ or pressuring someone else to imitate us then we need to confess and readjust. We need to honestly share, with no inhibitions, what we see happening and together we need to get our friendship back to its original purpose-that Christ will be formed in both of us.
Love is the evidence that I am Christ’s woman. Only through dependence on Christ alone will I find myself freed to be a most courageous lover who will not lose her identity through living but will find her God-given purpose in loving.”
Encouraging a husband does not mean that you become so absorbed in your husband that your identity and value come from him. It’s not becoming a doormat with no ideas, opinions, or voice, nor does it mean becoming an appeasing woman. Encouragement is not manipulation either. It’s not done for the purpose of reshaping him for your own dreams, desires, or wishes. Absorption, appeasement, and manipulation are actually forms of control.
Avoid mothering the man in your life. Let me say it another way. Never, but never mother a man. When you act like a mother you can’t encourage him. Treating an adult like a child is demeaning and makes you a controller! And if you mother him he will continue to act in a way that makes you continue to want to mother him and on and on and on.
How do mothers sound? Well for one thing they remind. They actually make the other person (child or adult) rely on them to bail them out. Anyway, why should the other person stop forgetting when he has someone who will remind him?
Similar to reminding is another approach. It’s called rescuing. How do you know if you tend to be a rescuer? Think about these factors.
• Would that man be incapable of functioning in his daily life without your help? If so, don’t rescue. Encourage growth.
• Do you tend to be stronger than him? If so, don’t reinforce his weaknesses and foster dependency. Find his potential and encourage growth.
• Does he tend to be unhappy unless you’re doing something for him? If so, don’t play this game. Encourage by showing you believe in his capability to do it himself.
• Does he make excuses for himself or do you make excuses for him? Remember excuses cripple and perpetuate helplessness.
But aren’t you to love another person by helping and serving? Yes, but it can become rescuing when you believe that it’s your responsibility to solve his problems or protect him from the results of what he’s done.
Rescuing doesn’t work. It doesn’t promote growth or change. It doesn’t help your man grow. It’s another word for fixing. Loving encouragement means support, being available, cooperative, and sympathetic. When you follow through with these you’re sending the message, “I believe in you. I believe in your capability to be responsible, mature, and an adult!”
Don’t do anything for your man that he should be (meaning capable of) doing for himself. If he asks you for something, and you’re used to getting it for him, let him get it for himself. Don’t make suggestions. Don’t pick up after him. Don’t bail him out of experiencing consequences. Yes, it probably means that your life could be a bit more frustrating. But you need to stick to your commitment. If you hear complaints let him know you know he’s capable of assuming the responsibility himself. You may be the first person in his life to show a belief that he can be different. Treat him as though he is reliable. I’ve seen so many women who end up being the clock, calendar, key finder, garbage reinforcer, and appointment regulator. Don’t rescue! Don’t bail him out!
In counseling I’ve dealt with men like this. As we discuss together the situation the dialogue goes something like this:
Norm: John, you have a fairly responsible job, don’t you?
John: Yes I do. I’ve been there three years now.
Norm: And you’ve received a couple of promotions, haven’t you?
John: Yes, one just recently.
Norm: John, when you’re at work who is it that reminds you of what to do, when to do it, how to do your job?
John: Well, no one. I can handle all that myself. I don’t need reminders.
Norm: So you don’t need any kind of reminders or support like that at work?
Norm: I guess my question is what’s the difference? Why are you so different at work? You’re competent, reliable, functional, and you follow through. At home you’re just the opposite. It appears that you’re making a choice. You have the capability, and you choose to be that way at work. At home you have the same capability, but choose not to use it at home. I wonder what kind of message you’re sending to your wife?
If a man is functional at work and not at home, there’s some kind of game playing going on that needs to be exposed and stopped.
Sometimes a man may not act capable because of other reasons such as the fear of failure. When a man fails in one area, he will take on only “safe” tasks. Why should he attempt something that carried with it the uncertainty of risk? Therefore, some men will pull back from activities over which they don’t maintain a high degree of control or in which they aren’t certain of success.
A wife shared with me how she was able to help and encourage her husband. “My husband had no conception of organization. He’s a perfectionist and if something couldn’t be done perfectly then he wouldn’t do it at all, or he’d leave a job half complete. Needless to say, we had a lot of half-finished projects, a lot of messes, and a lot of tasks never started!
“I’m not a nag and I didn’t pester him about the unfinished projects, but I did pick up the tools and materials left lying around and put them in big piles. I also have a big drawer in the kitchen that I called his tool drawer. And anything I found lying around I put into the drawer. That way if anything was missing, he could find it either in a pile or in the drawer.
“This caused a lot of arguments because he said it was his house, too, and he should be able to have his items wherever he wanted. (My husband is a carpenter and some of these items included big boards on which he would write notes or phone numbers or lists of materials needed. I started burning the boards in the fireplace.) All this was after many requests for him to write on tablets and put things away.
“I started buying him organizational tools—a small hand-held computer and tablets—and we worked on writing lists of things he needed to accomplish in a day. He prioritized the list. If he didn’t have the materials needed to start a job, then it went to the bottom of the list.
“I showed him it was OK to do a job as good as you could; it didn’t have to be perfect, and it didn’t have to be better than anyone else could do it. He began to feel good about starting something, completing it, and crossing it off his list.
“I praised him when he began a job, during the job, and of course after it was complete he got lots of praise. Most of the time the finished project was better than anyone else could have done it.
“Praise was very important to him and I found he needed to hear me praise him to other people. I would tell the person what his next project was going to be and how excited I was about his plans. I guess he just needed a system to get him organized. He could see that if he didn’t get organized his stuff was going to get burned or he was going to have a pile in the backyard as big as the house. He needed to know his projects were appreciated and we didn’t expect perfection.”
Hebrews 3:13 says we’re to “encourage one another every day.” In the setting of this verse, encouragement is associated with protecting the believer from callousness.
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us encourage one another.” This time the word means to keep someone on their feet who, if left to himself, would collapse. Your encouragement serves like the concrete pilings of a structural support.
One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 12:25. “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad.”
One man described why he felt encouraged. He said, “I was reading the Scriptures one day and found this passage. It summed it up better than I could say it.” “A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.” (Proverbs 31:10-21, MSG)
Hopefully you’re already encouraging the man in your life. The results may amaze you!
The above article came from the book, “How to Encourage the Man in Your Life” by H. Norman Wright, which was published by WORD Publishing. Unfortunately, it is no longer being published, but you may be able to find a used copy somehow. There’s so much that we weren’t able to share with you within this article that was written in the book that you may have found helpful in learning how to be an encourager to your husband, rather than a rescuer, or someone who nags and mothers him.