We Need Encouragers Now More Than Ever: Part 2

May 17, 2017

I write to model or provide encouragement, to point people to God as the unending source of strength, or to help develop our skills and gifts as we live out our faith and seek to love God and people.

God commands us to encourage one another. Please consider with another of the major reasons I think we need it now — perhaps now more than ever.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)  In our day, an average person faces a myriad of challenges and obstacles that can tear down and destroy their drive, effectiveness, and the quality of life that God desires for us to enjoy.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at our tendency to focus on the negative.  To further illustrate the point, Jon Acuff tells a classic New York story of Larry David (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) attending a baseball game at Yankee Stadium.  During the game, his picture was shown on the screen and he was announced as being at the game. 50,000 people stood and cheered.

As David left the stadium, a guy drove by and yelled, “Larry, you suck!” “That’s like, literally all he heard,” Berg (David’s friend) says.  David spent the ride back from the Bronx obsessing over that moment, running it over and over in his mind. It was as if the other 50,000 people, the ones who loved him, didn’t exist. “Who’s that guy? What was that?” He asked. “Who would do that? Why would you say something like that?”

Today, I’d like to direct out attention briefly to another factor that challenges us every day.

Fear Based “Motivators”

In politics and marketing, a growing number of people are seeking to get their message or products into people’s hearts and homes with ads or entire campaigns designed to capitalize on people’s anxieties and insecurities.

Shadow puppet symbolizing inordinate fear.

1. Political Campaigns

The last presidential campaign season has developed the attack ad to a whole new level.  A major dynamic of this is also known as scare tactics. In a personal conversation, one journalist covering the election told me that most people were actually voting against the opposing candidate rather than voting for their candidate.   They weren’t even sure what their own candidate’s platform was.

At the heart, the message is, “I realize you may not want our candidate, but you certainly don’t want theirs!!!”  There are many variations on this.  Political and marketing machines muster all the creativity they can but the basic message remains, “If that other candidate wins, it will be the end of the world as we know it.”

In our day, the average person is drowning in overwhelm.  They barely have enough time to get their top priorities done not to mention digging beyond the soundbites to get to the real story.  So they do their best to navigate the news cycles but only get to hear/read/view the headlines and twenty-second summaries designed more to keep ratings up than to keep an informed citizenry.

2. Special Interest Groups

To rally their troops to action, many special interest groups use fear to stir people to give money, sign petitions, boycott or ridicule the opposition. Of course, anyone committed to a cause will naturally speak up and fight for their cause—otherwise, we would doubt their sincerity. What concerns me is when I see groups using fear to manipulate the masses. I see it every week from and about Republicans and Democrats, pro-life groups, pro-choice groups, pro-faith groups and anti-faith groups, straight and LGBT communities, etc.

The argument usually goes like this. Those people are threatening our basic rights to think, believe, speak or act according to our conscience. If they are not for us they are against us. We can’t give an inch! We’ve got to dig in our heels and stand our ground otherwise they’ll take all our freedoms away. We’ve got to eliminate the opposition.

When people view others as the enemy, dialog is useless. Compromise is defeat! Again, if they win, it’s the end of the world as we know it.

3. Marketers

To rally the masses to part with their money, advertisers try to convince us that our life would be better with their product.  The next step is that our life is missing something or maybe even in danger without their product.  The well-worded (though not well documented) Wikipedia article on Fear Mongering says “Fear is a strong emotion and it can be manipulated to steer people into making emotional rather than reasoned choices. From car commercials that imply that having fewer airbags will cause your family harm, to disinfectant commercials that show bacteria lurking on every surface, fear-based advertising works.”

In the Psychology Today article, The Most Powerful Motivator Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. tells how fear can be used to motivate people when it’s done well.  But he also warns that “Fear can be too powerful to use as a motivator because it can also paralyze – the classic deer in the headlights syndrome.”

Either way, done well or poorly, people are trying to capitalize on the anxieties and insecurities of the people you care about.  That’s just one more reason that we need encouragers now more than ever.  THEY are out to steal the joy out of your life and the lives of your loved ones.  OK, so maybe that’s an example of what I was talking about.  But, I think you get the idea.

So how about you?  Any additional thoughts on why we need encouragers in our day?  Please share them in the comments section.  Please subscribe or follow so you’ll see upcoming articles on how you can be part of the solution.  Even a little encouragement can go a long way.

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Photo credit: DepositPhoto.com 43992147 Copyright: cranach2

Kevin Cunningham

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