Minute 750: Encouraging Words

After I finished giving a talk on “Being Happy,” a pharmacist friend of mine came over and said, “If everyone listened to you, I’d have a hard time staying in business!”

When I asked him what he meant, he said, “Seems like everyone is taking a mood-lifting drug of one sort or another. In today’s times, so many people are depressed.”

I couldn’t disagree with his analysis of the situation, but I could offer a different solution to this widespread malady. The Chofetz Chaim ruled that cheering someone up is a Torah obligation based on the mitzvah of comforting mourners. One is required, he said, to help another overcome emotional suffering. (Ahavat Chessed, part 2, chap. 2) So rather than leave people to their choice of medications, one should learn how to cheer people up and help them out of an emotional rut.

A prerequisite for success is to be genuine. One who is trying to get another to respond to encouraging words must load those words with sincere caring. Just using the right words will not get the job done. The one in need is likely to reject reassurances unless s/he feels a connection with the one attempting to uplift spirits. In fact, it’s likely that the heartening words first spoken will be rejected to test the earnestness of the consoling party. Persistence is viewed as authentic caring and will break down barriers and allow the words to penetrate.

Another important aspect of encouragement is to accept that you will likely fail before you succeed. Change your approach and try again. Never expect 100 percent improvement; instead, anticipate only partial success, and you’ll hit your target.

Always remember that one heart speaks to another heart. To penetrate a heart, you must show authentic concern and caring.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

Although we witness the heroic efforts of doctors and sometimes receive blessings from the greatest of the generation, our challenge is to remember what Hashem Himself tells us in the Torah: “I am Hashem your Doctor.” Our challenge is to sincerely tell Him when we pray, that we know it is He Who holds the cure. (Rabbi Y.Y. Rubinstein, The Little Book for Big Worries, p. 75)


Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.