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Everyone needs encouraging!

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To look in detail at the idea of encouragement and how it gives us courage.

Preparation and materials

  • None required.


  1. Start with a guided fantasy.

    Everyone, close your eyes and imagine the scene. 

    It’s Sports Day and you are about to be in a race. Which race it is is up to you, but you know that your parents have come to watch you, so you want to try and do your best. 

    Are you confident that you will win? Are you dreading it, because you know full well that you will come last and would much rather go and hide. 

    What thoughts are going through your head? Are you nervous, are you confident? 

    On your marks, get set, GO!! 

    Imagine the race – you’re flying, doing really well  . . .  or you’re just about managing to make your legs work a little bit faster than they normally do. If you’re running well, maybe you’ve won, while those of you who are a bit slower are still coming down the track. Either way, you go to your parents afterwards. 

    Imagine the conversation. Imagine you won and someone said, ‘Your time wasn’t as good as last year’ or ‘You failed to break the school record again’. How do you feel? 

    Then imagine you were the slow one, probably last, but someone says to you, ‘Good effort, I know you don’t find running easy, so well done for trying.’

  2. Leave a few minutes for the students to adjust, to think.

  3. Which person do you think would feel more encouraged?

    Take responses.

    The likelihood is that the person who was last in the race, but was told, ‘Well done for trying’ will feel better than the one who was told, ‘Your time wasn’t good.’

  4. Today I want us to look at what the word ‘encouragement’ means. 

    In an online dictionary, it is defined as, ‘the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.’ It is the action of cheering someone up, uplifting them. By encouraging others, we are giving them ‘courage’. We are scaffolding others’ self-esteem and belief in themselves as being able to keep going and slog on through. Runners of marathons often say that it is the encouragement and cheers from the crowd that keep them going even when it’s hard.

  5. By giving encouragement, we embolden and empower them to know that they are doing a good job or they are doing all right and their efforts are appreciated. Think how crushed the winner of the race we imagined would be because, instead of being congratulated for doing a great job and for winning, there was no encouragement, no uplifting words, just the expectation that he or she should have done better.

  6. Everyone thrives on praise and on being told that they are doing a good job, they are good at something. Who doesn’t like to get a smiley face or positive comment on their work or even a sticker? 

    Why is it, then, that, most of time, the first thing we say is a negative word or a criticism? If you include your own self-talk in this, then I have no doubt that you are your own harshest critic. Why so often when we are given compliments do we simply shrug them off and find something negative to say about ourselves or our performance instead. Words of affirmation and encouragement are so important – in the way that we speak to ourselves, but also in the way we talk to others. 

Time for reflection

So, your task for today – and, if you can try to develop it a little more, the day after and the day, week, weeks and so on after that – is to talk nicely to yourself, encourage yourself.

When you get a test result back and it’s a high grade, don’t think, ‘I’m so rubbish, I should have got the top grade’, try to think of something positive. Remember, there may be someone sitting next to you who is not capable of getting the grade you got, let alone the top grade.

Try to encourage your siblings if you can or even tell your parents what a good job they’re doing (even though it might not always feel like they are). I am sure they’re probably being negative enough about themselves so don’t need you to be!

Try to catch those negative thoughts before they cause you to spiral into a day of negativity.

If all else fails, take a deep breath and focus on one good thing that you can see. If it’s not you, it might be your friend. If that’s the case, tell him or her. Give your friend some encouragement.


‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Come and Praise, 147)

Publication date: February 2015   (Vol.17 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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