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We have access to the tool that causes happiness and peace to grow and enables it to be shared with everyone around us: it's called encouragement.

I read a really great book recently. Before I give its title, I want to provide a brief overview of its message.

Be hearty in approbation and lavish with sincere praise. Understand what other people desire and help them achieve it. Live your life so that others come first. Listen more than you speak. Never argue; there's no such thing as "winning" an argument: everyone involved loses.

I found the beginning of this TED talk particularly insightful on these themes. You can listen to all of it, but the latter portion is just an advertisement for vocal coaching:

The book this comes from is How to Win Friends and Influence People. I'd put off reading it for years because of the title and cultural narrative surrounding it. I'd been told that it's a book for people who want to get ahead or climb the social and executive ladder by using and manipulating people around them.

Those descriptions may be true for some, but I found it to be a particularly insightful and inspiring call to encouragement. It made me aware of the fact that negativity and criticism really dominate my conversations. It made me ask, "Why?"

Why do I act like happiness is a finite resource? As if I have to take it away from myself in order to give it to others. Kindness isn't tied to an object or anything else tangible, yet I still often act like I'm afraid that someone may steal the "things" that make me happy.

But this is all backwards. People can't "steal" happiness from someone else–they can only destroy it. They can do so through discouragement, invalidation, or pure apathy.

I discovered that as long as I believe others can steal my happiness, I continue to view it as an object. And as long as I view happiness as a finite object, I'm primed to try to take more of it for myself. The root of this might be greed which itself is based in fear, but it doesn't really matter where it comes from. We have access to the tool that causes happiness and peace to grow and enables it to be shared with everyone around us: it's called encouragement.

Paradoxically, when you try to steal happiness, the happiness is destroyed in the process. You gain nothing and the other person loses. Yet when you encourage, you find that everyone within earshot is uplifted. This is how you "win friends and influence people." You use your God-given ability to create an environment where everyone knows that they are worthy of love and praise.

Now, the recipe for genuine encouragement has a few ingredients: 1) humility, 2) determination, and 3) love.

Humility is the understanding that you lose nothing when you give to someone else. Humility understands that putting others down is the best way to find yourself at the bottom. But it also knows that putting others before yourself is the best way to find yourself at the front (remember that the last shall be first?).

You need determination on top of this because others will see all the joy you have and try to steal it from you. You and I know it won't work, but they don't! You must determine for yourself how you will react to these people: when they've destroyed all your happiness, will you do the same thing to them? Why not? You have nothing to lose! Or will you turn the other cheek, returning kindness for evil (in other words, will you encourage them)? This will restore your own peace and leave the other person totally astounded, wondering why they feel so good inside.

Finally, the love makes it all real. Like I said before, when someone has already destroyed your happiness, you have absolutely nothing to lose. You could leave the situation–you could leave the person standing there sad and alone–and you'll have done nothing wrong. They started it and they deserve it!

But, if you love them, you don't want to leave them there. If you love them, you're willing to sacrifice your pride and your fear to give them what they need: encouragement. I promise: it's always better when you choose to love.

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