Encouragement to Support Others


When I heard that Vickie Howell was creating a new knitting show I had to find out more. So I went to the kickstarter page and immediately gave some support. Vickie is an engaging and super creative knitter. And who doesn’t need a new knitting show! The gift for supporters in the  Rib Stitch level received a canvas bag with the show logo. Mine arrived just a few weeks ago.



My first project to keep in my new knitting bag is a dish cloth for my brother and sister-in-law. They live in Florida so I picked colors that reflect the houses in the area they live. My husband and I enjoyed a long weekend in their home and the new dish towel will look great in their kitchen.

One way to support and encourage others is through our own gifts. Vickie will share her gifts as a fantastic knitter through her show which will offer tons of support and encouragement for a large number of people.  On the other hand, my brother and sister-in-law offered their home and my husband and I enjoyed a long weekend away from reality. Yes, we left Minnesota to go to Florida in July, and it was fantastic.

Encouragement Principle #1 Encouragement is intrinsically good.

Both Vickie and my brother and sister-in-law are sharing their gifts to bring good. More knowledge of a fun hobby, and a place for relaxation.

Encouragement Principle #6 Words of encouragement are timeless.

My financial support encourages Vickie’s show to grow. Here is a link to The Knit Show website. Also, checkout some parody’s from Vickie on The Knit Show YouTube Channel.

Vickie’s show will encourage people for years to come. The videos are engaging and will be available for a long time. Who knows what creations will happen because of Vickie’s dynamic presentation of knitting ideas.

My husband and I will always have memories of quiet time by the ocean.

While walking along the shore in the evening we witnessed nature in action. Sea turtles were coming up onto the shore to dig a nest and lay eggs. It was amazing, standing in the dark watching the mama turtles slowly plodding out of the sea.

One confused mama  came out of the sea mid morning.

Neither Vickie or my brother and sister-in-law will ever realize the full impact of their encouragement to knit and relax.

Encouragement From Screwtape Is it True?

Encouragement found in The Screwtape Letters

The selection for my book club in February was The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. Of course I found encouragement in the book.

This book is fascinating and I have read it many times. The book is a series of letters from Screwtape, a master tempter from hell, to his apprentice nephew Wormwood. Wormwood has been assigned to a man to win him for the dark side, while the man is by his nature, destined for heaven. Screwtape is constantly giving pointers and criticisms about how Wormwood is going about his work.

“…encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence”


“He [God] hates to see them drifting away from their own nature for any reason. And we should always encourage them to do so.”

Yes, he said it! Screwtape used encourage in a way that is not intrinsically good. In fact I counted at least 14 times that Screwtape is encouraging Wormwood in his influence over the man. Since my study of encouragement is still new, and somewhat based on my own experiences I had to pause when I read all the ways Wormwood was being encouraged by his uncle.

The number 1 principle in my Principles of Effective Encouragement list is that encouragement is intrinsically good. How could I be that off? What was I missing?

And then, as all book clubs are intended to do, I thought more deeply about what I was reading. As Lewis himself writes in the Preface,

“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true…There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.”

Of course! Truth is straightforward, lies are twisted. “Man tends by nature toward the truth”.*  Since man tends toward truth, the devil has to work extra hard to twist the truth to win souls for himself. Hence, in the battle for souls for hell, the work of Wormwood and Screwtape are very necessary and very twisted.

Which brings me, to my relief, that the encouragement from Screwtape is also twisted. In the world of the devil, encouragement is twisted from “encouragement is intrinsically good”, to “encouragement is intrinsically bad”.

So, for now, my principle holds true.


*2467 Catechism of the Catholic Church



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The Many Forms of Encouragement

There are so many ways to give encouragement.

On Sunday night when my Notre Dame Fighting Irish went into double overtime in the game against the Texas Longhorns …my encouragement was loud and hopeful.

At work when I was on the phone, but my co-worker did not notice as he came to my desk and started talking…my encouragement was a silent hand gesture.

This weekend when I was teaching my 7 year old neighbor to knit…my encouragement was calm.

When a friend of mine was recently laid off, she was hopeful of finding a new job quickly. However, the search has become a long and weary process. I decided that a little humor might encourage her to hang in there a little longer. Thus, the panties in the picture. (I found them at JCPenny’s if you are interested.)

I wrapped them in pretty tissue paper and put them in a cute orange gift box that looks like a Chinese take out food box. When she opened them she laughed. She laughed a lot.

Sometimes helping others to see outside the fog is the best form of encouragement.

Sweet Spot of Encouragement


Encouragement can happen here.


The sweet spot of encouragement happens when the giver believes success is possible, and the receiver is in a situation where success is possible.

The giver wants success for the recipient.

The receiver finds hope and tries to follow the words of encouragement.

Sometimes the giver and the receiver are different. Sometimes the giver and the receiver are the same person, yourself.


Encouragement Needs Awareness of Other Points of View

We all see the world differently. One of the ways we can increase our ability to encourage well is to be aware. Before giving or receiving encouragement we need to be aware of a situation. When we encourage others we cannot assume that everyone is viewing a situation from the same point as we are. Our vision of a situation can be widened by acknowledging that people looking at the exact same thing can see it very differently.

One way to make this clear quickly is to look at some optical illusions…what do you see? (I love these.)

Rubin Vase









Old Woman Young Woman


The Dress










Kaninchen und Ente

Rubin Vase: Do you see a vase or 2 faces?

Old Woman Young Woman: Which do you see?

The Dress:  Do you see a white and gold dress or a blue and black dress?

Kaninchen und Ente (Rabbit and Duck): Which do you see?

Once you get a first impression of a picture try to see it from the opposite perspective. How hard was it to view the pictures from the opposite perspective? What is blatantly obvious to us may not even be visible to someone else.

Being aware of other perspectives to the same situation may change the way encouragement is given and received.

Encouragement from Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

I love children’s literature. It brings out the commonality of human nature in a simple and often hilarious ways. I
love stories because they help us laugh at ourselves.

A favorite story is Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes. The story is about Lilly and her new purple plastic purse that makes music when you open it. Lilly admires her teacher Mr. Slinger. One day, after a shopping trip with her grandmother, she brings in her new glamorous sunglasses, and purple plastic purse to school. While sharing her new treasures at an inappropriate time during the day Mr. Slinger gently takes the new items and holds them in his desk until the end of the day. Lilly gets very upset and angry. However, that evening she realized her mistake and apologizes the next day. Then all is well again.

Here is a walk through Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse with some editorial comments about encouragement and human nature.

Lilly’s teacher encourages others by example. He was not like the other teachers.

 (#1 Encouragement is intrinsically good. It brings out the best in others.)

Mr. Slinger was sharp as a tack.

He thought that desks in rows were old-fashioned and boring. ‘Do you think you can handle a semicircle?’

‘Wow,’ said Lilly. That was just about all she could say, ‘wow’.

Lilly loves her teacher and want to be one just like him. He did it through example.

Lilly felt good about herself with her new items in tow and wanted to share that feeling. Maybe she was encouraging others to get their own purple plastic purse, maybe not. (#4 Something good for me may not be good for you.)But she definitely wanted to share with others what was making her feel good about herself. She wanted others to notice her joy and perhaps help others to find their joy.

Lilly wanted to show everyone…Lilly really wanted to show everyone.  Lilly really, really wanted to show everyone.

“Not now,” said Mr. Slinger. “wait until recess or Sharing Time.”

But Lilly could not wait.  “Look,” Lilly whispered fiercely. “Look, everyone. Look what I’ve got!” Everyone looked. Including Mr. Slinger. He was not amused.

“I’ll just keep your things at my desk until the end of the day,” said Mr. Slinger. “They’ll be safe there, and then you can take them home.”

Because Lilly shared her overflowing joy at the wrong time, she temporarily lost her treasures. And she lost her joy.

Lilly’s stomach lurched. She felt like crying….Lilly longed for her purse all morning.

Not only did she loose her joy, she became sad, angry, and furious. She lashed out at Mr. Slinger with insults. She drew a mean picture of Mr. Slinger and put it in his book bag. She wanted him to feel her pain.

Lilly’s reaction made me think about how I react when my special things are taken away.

Mr. Slinger had put a note in her purse before returning it to her at the end of the day. It read, “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” When Lilly arrived home she felt horrible. After telling her mother and father everything that had happened, she wrote an apology note.

I thought it was very mature of Lilly to think of writing an apology note all by herself. I’m sure her parents would have encouraged her to write one if Lilly had not come up with the idea on her own.

Lilly seemed to be very aware of the situation. Although she did not like what happened at school, she wrote the apology anyway. She also made some treats to share with the class. This makes me think of another encouragement principle to be added to my list, encouragement takes courage.

In the morning, Lilly gave the treats and the note to Mr. Slinger before school started. And the day went much better.

Lilly shared her new treasures during Sharing Time. She also kept the treasures in her desk.

Throughout the rest of the day, Lilly’s purse and quarters and sunglasses were tucked safely inside her desk. She peeked at them often but did not disturb a soul.

I love having special things close to me during the day. When I was first engaged, and sometimes still, I love to glance at my engagement ring and smile. It is such a fun reminder of how our family started, just Chris and me. I can go days without thinking about my ever present ring, but it is a fun reminder when I take the time to look at it and remember.

At the end of the day,

Lilly ran and skipped and hopped and flew all the way home, she was so happy.

We are happy when things are in order. We are happy when we have the courage to make things right.

Encouragement To Let Go Of The Snooze Button

George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. Alarm clock service.

The day I started hitting the alarm off button instead of the snooze button I felt empowered. I felt in control. I felt I had gained an extra half an hour in my day. And my day started out with a success and not a defeat.

The snooze button had me captive and I didn’t even know it. Every night when I went to bed I had every intention of getting up at the first beep. But then, at the first beep, the conversation in my head would begin. “Come on, you should stick with your plan and get up”, and then, “but I can get ready for the day quickly, no need to rush”. Every push of the snooze become a bigger and bigger failure.

I joined an Ignation prayer group at church for Advent last year. Part of joining the group was making a commitment to pray at a certain time every day, at least 4 times a week. Since I am more of the “all or nothing” type than the 4 times a week type, I decided to keep the same schedule every day. The only time for this was early in the morning. Once everyone is up and going there is no guarantee of quiet time. So I started setting my alarm for 30 minutes earlier than usual every day. Just did it cold turkey.

Eight months later I am happy to say I conquered the snooze button. Now I can hop out of bed and start the day with a fresh outlook. Arguing with myself is draining. Working the plan and starting the day with confidence carries through my whole day.

Once I discovered how refreshing it is to be in control of my snooze I shared my discovery. Because my results were so positive I thought this would be positive for everyone. I wanted everyone to share in my new found sense of control and confidence.

The reactions to my encouragement to get up at the first buzz surprised me. Not everyone was interested in making a change.

This is an example of effective encouragement principle #4…Just because it is good for me does not mean it is good for everyone.*

Some people said the snooze time was their favorite ½ hour of the day. It was a natural transition time between deep sleep and heading for the shower or a work out. It was almost like a secret hidden time for lucid thoughts and relishing a comfy bed for just a little longer.

When I asked my brother-in-law how he felt about snooze buttons, he took it a step further. He said he doesn’t use an alarm clock! Unless he has an unusually early flight for work travel, he just gets up when his body says go. He is never late, or even stressed about getting to work on time. For him it is a non- issue. I was impressed with the trust he has in his internal clock.

It is possible to change your snooze habit, if you are interested. While I was creating this article I came upon a twitter request from Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and I Know How She Does It.  She was looking for people who have stopped the habit of hitting the snooze button. I responded with a few of my thoughts from above. Read her results 8 Strategies To Help You Quit The Snooze Button Habit For Good.

My quotes are in numbers 7 and 8. Enjoy!

*Click here to see the Principles of Effective Encouragement.

Principles of Effective Encouragement

George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. Violet (Viola).

Have you ever wanted to become a better encourager? Or maybe you receive a lot of encouragement and think…that was really helpful, or really not helpful. Either way, there are certain truths about encouragement that can help us to understand what encouragement is and what it isn’t.

#1 Encouragement is intrinsically good. – Encouragement makes us better people, more of who we really are. It does not take a us to a place that detracts from our true selves. If you are giving or receiving encouragement that is taking you to the dark side, i.e. illegal, immoral, it is not encouragement. It may be manipulation, provocation, or bullying, but it is not encouragement.

#2 Being Aware is necessary – Since all encouragement is good. (See above.) it should always lead to the receiver becoming more of who they are meant to be. Being aware of a situation or person can lead to more effective encouragement.

#3 Just because something is possible does not mean it should be encouraged. We all make choices in our lives. Sometimes a fork in the road has 2 awesome choices. Perhaps your child is very bright and wants to pursue medicine, however you come from a long line of engineers. Your hope is that you child will love the field you love, and you know they are capable of the work involved to become an engineer. You can’t understand why they would pursue medicine, it doesn’t make sense, it is not what your family does. Remember, just because your child is capable of an engineering degree does not mean it is their only option. Yes, this one is a tough one for parents.

#4 Something good for me may not be good for you. Perhaps becoming a vegetarian or deciding to home school changed your life and you are enjoying many benefits from the decision. This is awesome for you, but others may never have the desire to become a vegetarian or home school and that is OK too. Really, it’s OK.

#5 Possibility is necessary. – We do not encourage new born babies to walk, it is not possible. Giving encouragement to someone who is not capable of success is ineffective, and it won’t go far. In fact, it may do harm to place false hope in certain situations. If there is no hope, there should be no encouragement. Encouraging a new direction may be the best plan.

#6 Words of encouragement are timeless. A kind nudge or gentle word of encouragement received as a teenager may be remembered many years later. Sometimes giving words of encouragement is like planting seeds instead of lighting a firecracker.

These are my initial observations. As more examples are added these may need to be updated. It is a good place to start.

2 Sides to Encouragement

The Kennedy children visit backstage after a New York City Ballet performance of “Nutcracker”, Jacqueline Kennedy encourages young John to shake hands with Shaun O’Brien who played Herr Drosselmeyer, George Balanchine in rear.

Encouragement takes two sides, it takes a giver, and it takes a receiver. If all goes well the encouragement is effective. If it does not go well there are many different reasons why. Enough for another blog post in the near future.

First thoughts of effective encouragement look like this.

What traits does a giver need for the encouragement to be effective?

A realistic awareness of the receivers situation.

Is the receiver capable of incorporating the encouragement coming their way. That is, we do not encourage new born babies to walk. We are aware that they need time to adjust to the world and let their bodies develop and get stronger.

A belief that the receiver can take on the new challenge whether they are aware or not.

Perhaps a coach recognizes that a player is ready for a new skill. Even if the player is not aware or asking for the challenge, encouragement from a coach can help raise them to the next level of performance.

What traits does the receiver need for effective encouragement?

A relationship of trust with the giver.

Relationship of trust is used in a very broad sense here. A relationship could be close like a family member, or co-worker that has been on your team for years. However, the relationship could be more distant, i.e. when I was cheering on runners in a marathon. Our relationship lasted about 5 seconds as they passed by my cheering space on the curb. A sign or hand motion, when acknowledged by the receiver, can also provide encouragement.

If there is no trust of the giver, there is no action happening!

Plausibility of success

There needs to be hope. After all, encouragement is giving hope. Receiving encouragement to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) when you do not enjoy reading or writing probably won’t go very far. The effectiveness of giving that same encouragement to someone who has always dreamed of publishing a novel will be much more effective.

In the picture above Jackie Kennedy is giving encouragement to her son John. She is aware that he is capable of shaking hands with people. And she believes that John is able to, even if he is not taking the lead.

John is responding to the encouragement because he trusts his mother and he has practiced this many times in the past. He has great plausibility of success. Also he feels the support of her hand on his back, and perhaps soft words of encouragement are accompanying this action.

Is this encouragement effective? Yes, John has successfully and politely shaken the hand of Shaun O’Brien.