4 Keys to Overcoming Encouragement Deficit

Sheri Silk

Our need and desire for encouragement in life is inborn. We come into the world helpless and unable to do anything for ourselves, and depend on the encouragement of our primary caregivers to fuel our development.

Healthy kids want and expect continuous attention and cheering on from the important adults in their life. My grandson, Lincoln, for example, routinely tries to imitate his two older sisters, who love gymnastics and seem to spend a third of their lives upside down and flip-flopping around the house—not because he loves gymnastics, but because he wants my attention. He gets on his hands and feet, lifts one foot off the ground, and calls, “Mimi, watch! Watch!” Of course, I unfailingly tell him how amazing he is and how this simple act is worth great celebration.

This is how the encouragement cycle begins, and it remains critical to our growth throughout life. There’s probably no significant challenge or risk we can overcome without encouragement. This cycle can break down, however, for at least two reasons.

The first is when the supply of encouragement fails—when the attention and words of affirmation are replaced by distraction, silence, or worst of all, criticism.

The second reason is a little more complicated, and it’s when the demand for encouragement fails. This happens when people stop seeking genuine courage to fuel real growth in their life, and instead seek attention, affirmation, and approval that simply make them feel better about where they are without challenging them to change.

When I look at our society, I see the encouragement cycle broken on both ends. There’s both a general lack of encouragement and a false demand for “encouragement” that isn’t actually about providing courage to accomplish anything. People want to be cheered on without being in a race. Many have gone from being children receiving praise for childhood feats to being adults longing for the same praise without performing adult feats.

I understand that alongside our need for courage, we all need to be loved unconditionally for who we are, no matter our stage of growth or level of accomplishment. But we need to move past getting stickers and points for participation. We aren’t children any longer, and something inside us knows that we need more than getting a trophy just for showing up. Our hearts hunger for true courage, and a steady diet of affirmation and approval that we don’t metabolize into genuine risk-taking and growth simply won’t satisfy us.

Here are 4 keys to overcoming the courage deficit in our lives and building a healthy encouragement cycle that will fuel growth:

1. Take Responsibility to Stay Encouraged

The road to maturity is one from dependence to independence and interdependence. This means that we must become powerful people who understand that courage is meant to be exchanged in a reciprocal relationship in which we give as well as receive, not a relationship in which we expect outside forces to keep us moving toward our goals. Staying encouraged is first and foremost our responsibility.

2. Seek Feedback and Refuse to Be Offended

Powerful people surround themselves with people who speak the truth and call them on our stuff, and they do it because they recognize that courage comes from honest feedback.

It isn’t always pleasant to hear feedback, but ultimately it only damages us if we allow ourselves to be offended by it. As soon as we get offended, we turn into victims, become responsible for nothing, and will probably change nothing. This is the goal of the enemy. If he can keep us in the offended victim role, we will stay where we are—not moving forward, not taking ownership of our lives, and therefore not achieving our goals.

If someone is offering feedback, listen and see if it has some truth to it. You will find the genuine courage you need when you allow yourself to be challenged by those who love you.

3. Practice Encouraging Others

Everyone in our lives is facing challenges and needs to overcome obstacles to grow and achieve their dreams and callings. Many of them are struggling with discouragement. We have the privilege of calling out the gold in them just as we need them to do for us. Offering encouraging feedback is just as much our responsibility as receiving it.

4. Encourage Yourself in the Lord

I’ve watched my husband Danny be an encourager to so many people around the globe. For someone who didn’t have a father in the house after age 6, that is quite an accomplishment. I’ve often wondered how he’s done it. The only possible answer is that he had to learn to get encouragement from another source. One obvious source friends and leaders who have spoken courage over him. But even more importantly, he has learned to access the ultimate source of courage no matter who may or not be available to encourage him.

George Mueller said, “When nothing else will work, encourage yourself in the Lord. Do it with the word of God. Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.”

God has an endless supply of courage available for us if we simply go to Him. Along with reading the Word, we encourage ourselves in the Lord by revisiting the dreams and aspirations He’s put in our hearts, remembering what He thinks about us, and taking a fresh look at what He is calling us to do. David often did this in the Psalms—sometimes after having a bit of a pity party, but that’s where we often start. What really matters is that we choose to go to the source and receive the courage we need.

God’s promise to Joshua stands true for all of us: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Receive His encouragement today, and use it to run after the things He’s put in your heart!



P.S. Sheri will be speaking at our upcoming Loving on Purpose Summit in Dallas, TX, March 8-11. Tickets are still available!

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  1. Thank you, Sheri, for articulating how the Encouragement Deficit occurs and what we can do about it! I haven’t really thought about our cultural norm for giving praise when none has really been earned…or encouragement when nothing courageous is being attempted. Helpful thoughts.
    I grew up under courageous parents from the Depression/WWII era that didn’t receive much encouragement bc parents were often missing or overwhelmed themselves. I have also learned that the way I think/process/contribute is so different than most of the leaders I have been under, that they simply can’t compute what is taking much courage for me!
    However, as God’s Creation, He does understand and provides encouragement and encouragers….esp. when I seek it.
    I did wish that you would not use the phrase, "pity party" in referring to David’s laments. I think that comes much from the Depression Era and was used to stop negative comments when they were overwhelming others…or not benefiting the one making them. In David’s case, I think they are both valuable for articulating and encouraging to us to seek to articulate to the LORD, the Great Counselor, what is crushing us… And it is good to see then how David always refocuses….
    Thanks, again, Sheri for your thoughts and articulation!

  2. Thanks for the challenge sister. Men need encouragement too. We are often misunderstood to be self made and self reliant and by nature very competitive. I am so thankful for the eternal brothers and sisters that
    God has brought into my life because biologically I was an only child.
    I shared this with my pastor and my self assessment is that on #3 I do quite well. The others need attention and hard work. Finally, you quoted my life verse that I claimed when I was saved 40 years ago. Numbers 6:24-26 all over you, Danny and your Ministries.

  3. This is a journey the Lord has us on. He wants us to use every opportunity to sow into the Body of Christ, our forever family, and plant seeds so He can water them bringing the growth. It takes maturation and daily practice to complete this wonderful journey, amen. I am so encouraged by this word Sheri, in the season we are in, encouraging one another is so powerful. Let’s all grow into His likeness and pour His words of encouragement into our hurting world!

  4. This is a beautiful depiction of how a Truth-honoring family is supposed to function and grow. However, my question is this—the part about being open to receive honest feedback—I agree wholeheartedly and have always been open to constructive criticism even, but how does one effectively GIVE honest, Godly, scripturally-based feedback? If there hasn’t been some sort of manuscript written (I nominate you and Danny because your books are at the top of our library!), it would be a great book to be written. We’re all told to be open to honest feedback, but there is a difference between this Light-filled, liberating feedback and harsh, belittling, fear-based “feedback.” So my question is how do we deliver that Light?

  5. Thank you Sheri for putting this courage deficit to words in such a powerful way! I literally found this post in the midst of needing affirmation-encouragement for what feels like a very adult feat in my life — reenlisting in the Army for another stretch of time. I was asking God and myself , "Is this really something that I should be feeling? Even after 10 years of serving, why do I have this void all of a sudden in the midst of something like this?" I felt comfort and courage knowing that it is okay to have this deficit filled by people in my life (my father in particular) but also in Lord as my heavenly father at the same time. Knowing that above all else, if not from those around me, I can strengthen myself in the goodness of God towards me in order to be a truly powerful person is something very encouraging indeed. Blessings, Mark #KYLO

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