Encouragement: Most people think cheerleader. The “rah-rah” at games or finish lines that is loud and fun and where you throw confetti and candy in the air and everyone loves it, minus the person who has to clean it up. And it can be this. It can be the “rah-rah” that lights your fire and keeps it burning and smiles you to the end.
Though, I want to expand your definition of encouragement. I want you to see that it’s deeper and richer. It’s protective and attentive. It’s soft and velvet-wrapped steel. It’s strong. It’s gentle.
Life can be a bitch. It can turn its brutal force on you in an instant. This is where encouragement shines.
I love words. I tutor Latin, for heaven’s sake, so of course, I love words. Let’s take this word apart.
The prefix “en” means “in” or “within”.
The body of the word is “courage” which is a noun. A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. Courage is to do something that frightens one or strength in the face of pain or grief.
The suffix “ment” when combined with a noun (courage) often denotes action or a resulting state.
So, to give encouragement is to take from within yourself, courage, and in an action, give it to someone else that results with the person now having this said courage.
It isn’t just being a cheerleader. It’s being a “courage giver.” A stand-in-the-gap-per. They are a wind block while you catch your breath and regain your strength when life is hard. The one who whispers “keep going.”
And here is a tidbit – when you give courage, it is an acknowledgement that you have this courage to give. In physics and chemistry, the Law of Conservation means that energy cannot be destroyed; it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another. For you to give it – you have to have it.
This is a hard time of year for many people. Holidays are over and people need to recoup from money spent, time spent with family, or just the emotional energy the season requires. There’s also less sun and more gloom, cold, and wet. January can be a hard month. February can be even more brutal.
It may be a hard month for you. How do we deal?
You encourage. You encourage when you are waiting in line – kindness is encouraging – giving someone a smile is encouraging – telling someone they did a good job is encouraging. With this act, you encouraged a stranger and you encouraged yourself. Encouragement is a gift – and it is such a blessing to give. How often do we acknowledge how good we feel when we give a gift? It is no less when you give encouragement. We have already established that you acknowledge your own courage when you give it to someone else, so give your courage.
Ecclesiastes 4:12: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Even in encouragement of a stranger, in that moment, when you have reached into your store of courage and shared it with someone else, you stand together. In that moment you are cosmically joined as you hand your courage to another person. You are part of two chords intertwined. How much stronger are you when you are part of a friend group of encouragers – three strands are not to be broken.
I pray you have a group of ride or die girls. Or dudes…bros?
I have a group of women – we call each other the BSers. It stands for Bible Study. We have been together for over 11 years now. We don’t all go to church together, but we believe. We have forged our group from honesty, pain, disappointment, laughs, fears, victories, surprises, tragedy, loss, and celebrations. We are a physical presence in each other’s lives, even if it’s a conversation through group messages. We have continued it when some moved far, and then moved back.
I am entirely better because of them and their encouragement. And it hasn’t been “rah-rah”. It’s been the knowledge that they root for me. They tell me they root for me – in their words – in their actions – in their prayers over my children and my marriage. They want the best for me. And I want the best for them. I want them to know how incredible each and every one of them are to me, to this world, and to their Father. I think they can do anything. And they think the same of me. Have you ever been shocked by someone who thinks so much more of you than sometimes you think of yourself? That is this group.
But encouragement isn’t just telling the good stuff. It’s telling the truth and the hard stuff. It’s doing so in love because they have lived the right to be able to tell me something I may not want to hear. And I have done the same for them. Courage. Courage to apologize. Courage to exercise. Courage to learn. Courage to cry. Courage to do a million things that sometimes seem too hard. Courage they have given to me when I do not have the courage myself.
You can also encourage – give courage – by not saying a word. So many times we want to say something to make it better. To take pain away, to comfort, to fix something and sometimes there is no way to fix – no way to make something “right”. This is when you give courage by being present. By holding a hand. By sitting side by side. By eye contact. By letting them see your tears as you watch theirs. Courage given – Courage received – Courage realized.
I hope your mind has gone to someone as you read this blog. Someone who has been a “courage giver” to you. If your mind went to friends who may not be the kind I described above, you can begin to change that by encouraging them. Be that friend to them. Be there. Reach out. Sit. Drink Coffee. Listen. Hug. Laugh. Be the “courage giver” in their lives. You both will be richer for it.
I leave you with scripture on friendship. Friendship that is family – family built when you are “courage givers” to each other.
Proverbs 18:24 – There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 – Two are better than one, because they have a good return on their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up, but pity anyone who falls and has no one to help him up.
Be a “courage give” and in doing so, find courage you never knew you possessed.
This week's featured blog writer is Jennifer Edmunson. She is a wife and homeschool mom who gets to pretend that she is "all that" as an Oklahoma County Library Commissioner and Latin Tutor. She hangs everything on believing God is good all the time, even when she doesn't understand and something may actually suck.