4. If we are to encourage others, what counsel of the apostle Paul must we take to heart?
4 If we are to be a source of encouragement to others, we must take to heart the exhortation that the apostle Paul gave to the Hebrew Christians. He said: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works,
“CONSIDER ONE ANOTHER”
5. What does it mean to “consider one another,” and what effort does doing so require?
5 To “consider one another” means “to take into account the needs of others, to think about them.” Can we closely consider the needs of others if we limit our conversations with them to a quick greeting at the Kingdom Hall or a discussion of only trivial matters? Not really. We, of course, want to be careful to ‘mind our own business’ and not to ‘meddle in other people’s affairs.’ (1 Thess. 4:11; 1 Tim. 5:13) Nevertheless, if we want to encourage our brothers, we truly need to get to know them—their situation in life, their qualities, their spirituality, their strengths, and their weaknesses. They need to view us as their friends and be assured of our love for them. This requires spending time with them—not just when they face problems and get discouraged but at other times too.—Rom. 12:13.
6. What will help an elder to “consider” those in his care?
6 The older men in the congregation are exhorted to ‘shepherd the flock of God in their care,’ doing so willingly and eagerly. (1 Pet. 5:1-3) How can they carry out the shepherding work effectively unless they really know the sheep in their care? (Read Proverbs 27:23.) If elders make themselves available to fellow believers and enjoy being with them, the sheep will be more likely to ask for assistance when needed. The brothers and sisters will also be more inclined to reveal their true feelings and concerns, enabling elders to “consider” those in their care and render needed help.
7. How should we view the “wild talk” of those who are discouraged?
7 When addressing the congregation in Thessalonica, Paul said: “Support the weak.” (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14.) “Depressed souls” are weak, in a sense, and so are discouraged ones. Proverbs 24:10 says: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” The words of a deeply discouraged person may become “wild talk.” (Job 6:2, 3) When ‘considering’ such ones, we need to keep in mind that what they say may not be a true reflection of what they really are at heart. Rachelle, whose mother became severely depressed, learned this from personal experience. Rachelle says: “Many times Mom would say something very hateful. Most of these times, I tried to remind myself of the kind of person Mom really is—loving, kind, and generous. I learned that depressed people say many things they do not mean. The worst thing that one can do is to return evil words or actions.” Proverbs 19:11 states: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to pass over transgression.”
8. For whom do we especially need to “confirm” our love, and why?
8 How can we “consider” someone who feels downhearted because of the shame and despair that he still experiences as a result of a past transgression, even though he has taken steps to correct matters? Concerning a repentant wrongdoer in Corinth, Paul wrote: “You should kindly forgive and comfort him, that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad. Therefore I exhort you to confirm your love for him.” (2 Cor. 2:7, 8) According to one lexicon, the term rendered “confirm” means to “ratify, validate, make legally binding.” We simply cannot assume that the person understands our love and concern for him. He needs to see it demonstrated by our attitude and actions.
“INCITE TO LOVE AND FINE WORKS”
9. What does it mean to “incite to love and fine works”?
9 “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works,” wrote Paul. We need to motivate fellow believers to display love and engage in fine works. When a fire is about to die down, we may need to stir the coals and fan the flames. (2 Tim. 1:6) In the same way, we can lovingly incite our brothers to show their love for God and for neighbor. Appropriate commendation is essential to incite others to fine works.
10 All of us need commendation, whether we are discouraged or not. “My father never once said I did anything well,” one elder wrote. “So I grew up lacking self-esteem. . . . Although I am now 50 years old, I still appreciate being reassured by my friends that I am doing a good job as an elder. . . . My own experience has taught me how important it is to give encouragement to others, and I go out of my way to give it.” Commendation can stimulate all—including pioneers, elderly ones, and those who may be discouraged.—Rom. 12:10.
11 When ‘those who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust a man who has taken a false step,’ loving counsel and appropriate commendation may motivate the wrongdoer to return to the course of fine works. (Gal. 6:1) This proved to be true for a sister named Miriam. She writes: “I went through a traumatic period in my life when some close friends left the congregation and, at the same time, my father suffered a brain hemorrhage. I became very depressed. In an attempt to overcome my depression, I began to go out with a worldly boyfriend.” This made her feel unworthy of Jehovah’s love, and she contemplated leaving the truth. When an elder reminded her of her past faithful service, her emotions were stirred. She allowed the elders an opportunity to reassure her of Jehovah’s love. In turn, her love was rekindled. She ended her relationship with the unbeliever and continued serving Jehovah.
12. What can be said about using shame, criticism, or guilt to motivate others?
12 Shaming an individual by making unfair comparisons with others, criticizing him by setting up rigid standards, or making him feel guilty about not doing more may motivate him to a spurt of activity, but the results are only temporary. On the other hand, giving a fellow believer commendation and appealing to his love for God can have a lasting, positive effect.—Read Philippians 2:1-4.