The word “encourage” means an increase in willingness to completely bring your heart to something or someone. Encouragement gives us an injection of courage.
We are born with courage —yes— as babies. We were born fully, unavoidably participating in living as we reached for fulfillment. We did not even have the ability to try to stop our courage. We were “all in,” and we reached to the big folks to help grow and wizen our hearts—to help us keep the gift of courage as we faced and were shaken by life’s mishaps and tragedies.
The big folks’ job, our job, is to encourage the hearts of the young, and others of course, as we ourselves receive the increase in courage we need. But that usually doesn’t happen.
When we start growing up into life, we experience things that make us recoil from courage, and things that rob us of our full-hearted participation. We become discouraged. In the attempt to defend against more wounds, we distrust our own hopes and dreams. We even become ashamed of thinking about them. Our expertise becomes self-protection and defensiveness, rather than remaining in full-hearted participation in life. This reality is part of living. It happens to everyone. By everyone, I mean everyone. However, this failure does not mean that we have to lose heart—give up courage.
It simply means that life is overwhelming and encouragement is a dire essential to remain “all in.” Encouraging people have been knocked down and have somehow been recreated. They walk with the “limp” of experience and yet wear the face of full-hearted participation. They do not carry the illusion that they will not get hurt; they accept that courage hurts.
I have witnessed six things that encouraging people do to keep courage:
They are truthful about the pain of their hearts and the hopes that they carry within their hearts.
They listen to and are open to receive the voices of other people’s stories of life that expose defeat and perseverance.
They receive strength from writings that inspire them to “rise up,” especially the most honest of all books, the Bible.
They pray in a way that is a conversation with the God who listens and speaks.
They take time to be still so they can hear the quiet whispers of the Spirit.
They view their circumstances and experiences as that which continues to return them to the five characteristics mentioned above.
Encouraging people need encouragement so that they can remain encouraging. Everyone needs more courage, and everyone is made to give more courage.