There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise ones is a healing.
We need to ‘encourage one another all the more as we behold the day drawing near.’ Encouraging others involves motivating them to continue moving forward in their service to God. Just as inciting to love and fine works can be likened to stirring up a fire that is about to go out, encouraging others can be likened to putting fuel on the fire to keep it burning or to increase its intensity. Encouraging others calls for strengthening and comforting the downhearted. When given an opportunity to encourage such a person, we must speak in a warm and gentle manner. Moreover, let us “be swift about hearing” and “slow about speaking.” If we listen empathetically, we may be able to identify situations that discourage a fellow Christian and say something to help him deal with those circumstances.
There is no question that many of Jehovah’s Witnesses are heavily burdened with life’s anxieties. Clinical depression is affecting more and more people in general in our modern world and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not immune. There is a great need for encouragement. Elders should absolutely know the appearance of their flock and take into consideration such things as depression and other mental illnesses.
Unfortunately, my sister-in-law experienced firsthand how an elder can speak thoughtlessly as with the stabs of the sword. For years she has struggled with bipolar and depression. She works full time and is the mother of a handicapped son and the wife of an emotionally crippled alcoholic. She has struggled to keep up with meeting attendance and field service carrying such a burden. One day an elder approached her after having reviewed her publisher card and told her that apparently she didn’t love Jehovah very much because she didn’t put very much time into her ministry. The elder may have thought he was encouraging her. The result, though, was my sister-in-law left the kingdom hall and never returned. ‘What’s the point?’ she reasoned.
These are the things for which Jehovah will ultimately require an accounting.