While I do see the value of setting goals and striving to achieve them, most goals and resolutions that people make are not met because their “WHY” is not important enough. One resolution that we can all make and keep is to make it a habit to daily encourage other people.
I often pause to reflect on the word “encourage” or “encouragement.” What does it really mean to be able to encourage another person or have someone encourage us?
Certainly, on our life’s trek, there are plenty of obstacles and rough terrain that we encounter each day where it is easy to get discouraged. That is how life rolls some days or even for some extended seasons.
While I am generally a positive person and do not become easily discouraged for long periods of time, we are all susceptible to experiencing times where we do not feel, nor do we really desire to be, positive. I think that we can all relate to this.
One of the most common complaints we hear from many people today, especially in the workplace, but too many times also in our homes and places of worship, is that they never receive any feedback, except negative feedback. All of us like to be encouraged, but I tend not to need a constant dose of it myself. So, I was not always as free to give it as I should have been.
I know early on in my life as an entrepreneur and business owner, I made the same mistake with my team members. Paula had to remind me several times that encouragement does not come through sarcasm. Unfortunately, at times, this also carried over into my interaction with our kids. I did learn through the years to replace sarcasm with encouragement, but it took a while to make that transition. The good news is that any of us can learn to cultivate the ministry of encouragement in our lives.
But first, we need to understand what it really means to encourage another person and even ourselves.
What is Encouragement?
The word is a compound of the prefix “en,” which literally means to put into or infuse into someone. Think of a blood transfusion during which you are infusing donated blood from one individual into another person who is lacking blood. The second part of the word is “courage,” which means the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, without fear.
So, as we combine these two words, when we encourage someone it is to infuse them with courage that we have so that another person will have peace of mind to face difficulties, danger, and pain without fear.
Just as donating blood to someone else is both permanent and lifesaving, so when we encourage another person we are taking some of our courage and permanently infusing it into another person to help them to live life more fully. If we stick with the analogy of donating blood, encouragement does not have to be reserved for someone we know. Complete strangers may also benefit when we infuse them with courage that we have in abundance.
On the opposite side of this coin, let’s look at what it would mean to discourage someone. The prefix “dis” negates or reverses the word it is attached to. “Dissatisfied” means “not satisfied.” So, to “discourage” a person is to take courage away from that person. In our blood transfusion analogy, to discourage another person is the same as sucking the blood right out of a person, which could literally endanger their life. This certainly should give us pause on how we speak and treat others.
An encouraging person is pleasant to be around because he builds you up and strengthens you by his example, words, actions, and attitudes. A discouraging person weakens, deprives of hope, and tears down rather than strengthening and building up.
As a Christ follower, I find in the Scriptures a continual reminder to encourage, or infuse with courage, one another at all times. Even God’s Spirit whom He sent to dwell in us when Christ ascended into heaven was referred to in John 14 by the Greek word “Paraclete,” which is someone called alongside another to counsel, encourage, help, and bring comfort.
Encouragement also has the reference to urge or exhort. If a person has fear and needs courage, you may need to urge or exhort them to gain the courage needed for the task at hand. Encourage is not necessarily a “feel good word” to encourage someone, but to give them the courage to do what is right, just, and fair in all situations.
A person needing help may not require comfort so much as a challenge. The word is used to exhort troops to go into battle. It not only empathizes; it also motivates or inspires. It not only gives comfort; it also gives courage. It impels hesitant soldiers into battle and fearful sailors into the storm.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica Chapter 5 verses, 11 through 16, a good overview of encouragement is revealed, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
The Scriptures are filled with words of encouragement and exhortation to encourage others. In the future, we will take some more days on our trek to look at the important subject of encouragement.
I will leave you with this question in this week’s Wisdom Note: “Do you practice encouragement in in your own life to bring courage within yourself and then donate some of that courage in the lives of others that you impact?”