Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Part of loving others is the need to build others up.
But in the church, because of the influence of the culture around us, there is confusion about what building others up means.
What are we building? What is the purpose of building up others? What is the basis we are building upon?
That is a good place to start with how to build.
1. Building up is truthful.
It you have tuned into any of the reality competition shows like America’s Got Talent, The Voice, American Idol, etc., there is a refrain you hear over and over again:
“You are a star.”
Clearly that is not the truth. How many stars can there be? Not as many as ascribed to by these shows.
In our culture we have substituted flattery for building up.
So we much too easily tell people they are the best – speaker, spouse, employee, athlete, student, beauty, etc.
Flattery exaggerates, giving a false impression. Flattery is not based in truth.
Flattery builds up the false self. It appeals to our desire to compare. (see What Comparison Does) To know how we stack up, so we can base our sense of self on that knowledge.
The problem with the foundation of sand is what happens when that false impression is not validated? When the student who has been told they are amazing and special fails a test? Or the athlete that has been coddled does not make the team?
There will be shame (a questioning of worth) and a crisis of the false self.
2. Building up is not selfish.
How many times have you attempted to build someone up in order to get something in return?
Building another up is not a way to get what you want. Doing this becomes a way to inflate our own false self.
If I tell this person she is beautiful, maybe she’ll say the same back to me.
Or if I complement this person’s ability, then they will say something nice about what they see in me.
Or even, if I am nice to this person, they’ll let me use their condo.
Love is the motivation to build up another. (1 Corinthians 8:1) Love does not expect a return.
3. Building up is not always positive.
Western culture is extremely feelings oriented. So, we have bought into the mantra that we should not hurt someone else’s feelings.
So we will tolerate bad behaviors and even sin in order to avoid the offense of hurting another’s feelings.
This is enabling.
The reality is that sometimes to build up, there may need to be awareness of negative things. Maybe your spouse does not know how their behavior is affecting those around them. Maybe your child needs a little discipline to grow.
This is different from tearing down. Tearing down is telling another how they don’t measure up and taking away their value. Tearing down is shaming.
Building up is always compassionate. There is the offer to walk alongside. (see More Compassion Bearers)
4. Building up is rooted in Gospel truth.
Yes, you should definitely tell your daughter, wife, mother, or friend that she is beautiful.
But why? Is she beautiful because she has conformed to culture’s image of beauty? Or is she beautiful because she was lovingly created by God?
There is a difference. One enslaves or creates insecurity the other frees.
Building up should direct others toward their true identity. The foundation of rock.
As we build others up, it should create a better awareness of who the other is in Christ and how we see that on display.
Building up is a reminder of truth, necessary in the battle to overcome the lies the false self preys upon.
Building up is rooted in the Gospel. (see What is the Gospel?)
What are some practical ways to build up those around you?