I would consider myself an encouraging person. When I realised, in my late teens, how much a single compliment meant to me, or an attempt to build me up and strengthen me to persevere, it occurred to me that other people probably felt the same way. From then on, I've really made an effort to be someone who notices other people - that girl who looks a bit hesitant because she's got a new hairstyle and isn't sure whether people will like it; the person who was absolutely terrified about the public speaking they just did... and to give them genuine and helpful praise. If I notice that someone is looking particularly nice or something like that, I'll tell them, not just keep it to myself, especially if they're someone who doesn't usually get a lot of compliments.
But this weekend I got a card from one of my favourite older people at the church, who I've known pretty much since I was born, and who has The Gift of Encouragement (and a lot of other gifts too). She basically said that when I go away on Thursday for a couple of months (to Europe, eee!), I would be missed. Not because of my super-stunning good looks, or my musical prowess, or anything like that. :) But because of something in my spiritual life in the church that she thinks has been developing.
I just found this really encouraging. What she was encouraging me in is something I've struggled with for a long time and I have been making a real effort, but still don't feel like it comes naturally to me. For her to notice and encourage me to persevere... well, it means a lot.
And I started wondering - I pride myself on being an encouraging person, but do I really give out spiritual encouragement? Compliments on the way someone looks are not exactly the be-all-and-end-all of encouragement, especially as a Christian. I don't mean to stop giving them, but I feel challenged to do something more than that.