As I was on my 5k morning run along a public service road, I was greeted with unsolicited comments from three different people as I passed by them.  Running is an opportunity for me to be refreshed physically, spiritually and emotionally so this immediately became an object lesson as I pondered the differences in their words.

Encourager – The encourager is often a person with good intentions that gives you a hypothetical slap on the rump to engage you into forward progress.  This is often a generic greeting that is certainly welcome but doesn’t carry tremendous weight or value.  Example – Hearing “great job” from someone that is barely walking while you’re sweating to the oldies on your run.  They don’t even know or care that you’ve been slacking for months and are finally on the move.  They are just excited to encourage you on your current victory.  Beware - sometimes the encourager is one of those people who simply says nice things because they want to be liked by everybody, avoids conflict and would never tell you (to your face) that you’re really not doing a great job!  That’s not everyone but there are a lot of “people pleasers” that do more damage than good due to lack of honesty and integrity.

Challenger – The challenger (an encourager with tough love) is a person who sees your potential and gives you encouragement with a tougher stance to engage you into your full potential.  The challenger often has experience in that area so they understand your obstacles and potential.  They know when you’re simply slacking.  Example – Hearing “step it up…you’ve got this” from someone that is clearly running at a faster pace, is regularly committed and knows your potential.  This should be encouraging but it’s often discouraging because you’re perception is skewed as we prefer the generic encouragement sometimes.  The generic encouragement may keep us going and make us happy temporarily but it won’t necessarily push us to our limits and ensure long term sustainment.  Don’t buck the challenger if you have a desire for growth!  Perceive it as if they see gold (potential) in you that hasn’t quite blossomed yet.

Heckler – The heckler is generally a person with misdirected intentions.  They sometimes speak before they think and personal preferences often supersede their perception of reality.  Example – Hearing “that’s all you’ve got” from someone that obviously doesn’t exercise or have personal investment in your success… not really helpful.  Be careful to not mistake a challenger for a heckler.  Don’t completely discount the heckler though.  If you examine their words close enough, there is probably an ounce of truth in there.  Identify it, address it and move on!

All that to say… encouragement is good!  Don’t be fake.  When you’re in a position to challenge those in your sphere of influence, lead by example and go for it.  You won’t always be popular but it’s not about you all the time.  Reduce unnecessary heckling so you’re not “that guy”.  Try to let your words speak life into those you encounter!

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