There is very little more damaging to one's future than what they believe of themselves. We often define ourselves by the world's standards, our looks, personality, education, hair, and come on, let's be serious, on the cutest shoes we can find to wow our girlfriends! In a world surrounded by "People Pleasing", we have lost who we have been created by God to be. Viewing ourselves through the eyes of society has become the "norm" , not only for the "world", but for Christians as well.
My girlfriend was recently commenting on some things she saw as "strengths" in me. Because she knows this has been a difficult area for me, I laughed at her and said, "Don't COMPLIMENT ME!!" (let's face it, it's hard to take praise a lot of times), she never misses a beat, she looked at me with that half-smirked smile on her face and said, "I am NOT complimenting you, I am encouraging you, there is a difference." I had to digest that for a minute, because I truly did not "get" the difference.....but I do now.
A compliment speaks to that which "WE" have control of, our hair, our clothes, and our really sweet red pumps. We all enjoy compliments, it's part of that"People Pleasing" mentality. It means our choices have been accepted by our peers, and that we are being praised for our efforts to "fit in". Compliments are not a bad thing, not at all....my girlfriends have the cutest clothes, the best hair, the prettiest jewelry AND the SWEETEST shoes, they of course know that because I never miss an opportunity to express my "acceptance" of their efforts. Women and Men alike enjoy the accolades of their buddies.
Encouragement comes from such a different place. It speaks to the desires of our hearts, who we truly want to be, and who we want people to see us as. When encouragement comes from a friend, it is wrapped in a big beautiful package and delivered with extra care and thought than a mere compliment. It means that in our life they have witnessed the attributes that would draw others to Christ. In our relationships, giving encouragement to someone is the very thing that Paul is talking about in Philippians 2:1. It is an "atta girl" to continue the calling God has placed on your life. It is taking our compliments, and placing them on the heart of the people around us. It is taking great care to edify and exhort those we are doing life with to continue on the road, even if there is persecution and sacrifice.
The word Encouragement here means to "exhort, admonish, comfort, summons" it holds in it's context the demand to continue on, even when the road gets tough and the light has dimmed in the distance. It is a very personal way for Christians to take part in each others lives as we together continue on in this life for Christ.
Give a compliment when you love her shoes; Give encouragement when you love her heart.