I was recently asked to think of one or two things that encourage me. I thought about it. At first I thought, “Does this mean how people encourage me or the world around me or when I do a good job? I thought about what it is like to be encouraged. How it uplifts in positive ways, whether it is a person who affirms me, or when I am out and see an eagle fly over my head or when I am successful with a finished project. I was determined to find the fullest meaning possible. This meant asking questions. Why do we need it? What is it like when we don’t experience it? Why do we sometimes reject encouragement? Then I thought what does encouragement actually mean? So I looked it up.
Encouragement: “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” I sat with this and as I looked closely at the word itself I realized the word :courage” is nestled in between En-&- ment. So I looked up the word Courage: “the ability to do something that frightens one and or to find strength in the face of pain or grief.” This led me to think about dis-courage which mean: “to cause (someone) to lose confidence or enthusiasm.”
I thought about this for several days. Another interesting thing that emerged is that encouragement and Discouragement are verbs. The word courage is actually a noun. I started to imagine courage as a container. That can be filled and emptied.
My nephew is a junior in college and I recently visited him there. We went to supper. A few weeks before at my Ordination he was a most gracious host. Later, several people let me know what a wonderful kind Gentleman he had become. As I was driving up to see him I looked forward to sharing this. At the Restaurant, I told him what a friend or two had told me and how proud I was of him. He had to overcome many challenges and obstacles yet managed to use them as stepping stones not stumbling blocks. As I spoke these words to him he began to sit up straighter in his chair and listen intently. I could see in his eyes that something good was happening to his soul. A little later, he began to share that he had slept in that morning and missed two classes which caused him to really be down on himself. He said it happens around this time every semester. I smiled and said yes it is the infamous midterm slump. I encouraged him saying every semester is like a marathon and you’re at heartbreak hill. You can make it!!!!! Then I So I shared my thoughts on encouragement and courage being a vessel that can be filled or poured out. I said encouragement is like thirst quenching water while discouragement takes it all away. He was astonished as he had never heard anything like that and in that moment it made sense to him. He realized he had been discouraging himself and that is why he felt so awful and wanted to quit. He got that encouragement fortifies courage and discouragement takes it away. Encouragement had quenched a thirst, giving him assurance and affirmation. This in turn renewed his confidence allowing him to rise up and out of discouragement renewing his purpose and intent and stay the course.
There is a verse in the Holy Bible that says: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another to good works.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
So if you feel discouraged, I would encourage you to think of someone who has blessed you, supported you, helped you and write to them or call and let them know what they mean to you. The gift of encouragement that you give them may be just what they needed to quench their thirst and fill their vessel of courage. And in turn you will also experience its wonderful thirst quenching properties. Imagine how relationships could be transformed simply by words of encouragement.