Receiving the gift of encouragement

Published 9:30 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2017

By Tonya S. Swindell

Encouragement is a gift I receive in many ways.

It raises my self-esteem, builds courage, restores hope and changes my perspective. And I’m thankful for people in my life, throughout the Bible and on radio, TV and movies who demonstrate how to acknowledge good qualities in me and others.

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My mother says, “Tonya, I’m so proud of you! Aren’t you proud of yourself?” Her words convey satisfaction and appreciation, but they also increase my self-esteem. And gradually I’m learning to affirm myself, even if others do not.

Ephesians 2:10 is a good scripture to recite when I need reminders of my worth and the reasons God had for creating me. It says: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Philippians 4:13 inspires me to be courageous, saying: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

In Psalm 139:14, King David thanked God for creating him, saying: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” On another occasion, David “encouraged himself in the Lord,” even though people were trying to kill him.

One of my favorite gospel songs reminds me of how important it is to encourage myself, even if others overlook or minimize my strengths. “Encourage Yourself” by Donald Lawrence and The Tri-City Singers featuring Sheri Jones-Moffett says: “Sometimes you have to encourage yourself. Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test. And no matter how you feel, speak the word and you will be healed; speak over yourself, encourage yourself in the Lord…”

Some people may remember Stuart Smalley, a fictional “Saturday Night Live” character who hosted a mock self-help show. During each episode the character looked over his left shoulder into a long, wooden mirror and recited this affirmation: “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough; and doggone it, people like me!”

Interestingly, the character was created by comedian Al Franken who later became United States Senator of Minnesota.

In 2011, one of the most touching scenes of the movie “The Help” illustrated how consistent encouragement can impact a person’s life. The movie portrayed African-American maids caring for white families in Mississippi during the early 1960s. Actress and producer Viola Davis played a character named Aibileen Clark.

Wikipedia describes Ms. Clark as “a black maid who raises the children of Elizabeth Leefolt, a white woman suffering from postpartum depression, who refuses to acknowledge her daughter Mae Mobley other than by disciplining her.”

Aibileen encouraged Mae Mobley by consistently looking into her eyes while teaching her how kind, smart and important she was to Aibileen and others.

I’m grateful there are multiple ways to receive encouragement. It helps me believe in my capabilities, grow in faith, and inspire others. Most importantly, positive affirmations and statements of faith help to bolster my self-esteem and change my outlook on life, even when others cannot.

“Sometimes you have to encourage yourself…”

Tonya Swindell writes a blog for and a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School ( She can be reached at