Ah, how we love an encouraging word. Solomon called them “words fitly spoken” and “good news from afar”. Moses charged Joshua to be strong and of good courage, inspiring him for the daunting task ahead. Jesus commended seekers for their faith and Paul’s letters often begin with affirming, encouraging greetings. “I have heard of your love…”
What does it mean to encourage someone? Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary has two meanings for the verb encourage. The first, “to inspire with courage, spirit or hope; hearten”, certainly agrees with Solomon’s fitly spoken words.
I have been the beneficiary of many fitly spoken words in my life. Comments on well behaved children, compliments on my cooking, appreciation for an article written, or my favorite, “You are looking good, have you lost some weight?” All words that inspire and hearten my soul. They encourage me to stay the course; to keep disciplining my children, to keep cooking good meals, to keep writing, to keep in shape.
I was a bit surprised by Webster’s second definition. It read “to spur on: stimulate”. Spur?
Picturing the sharp, pointy things on cowboy boots, I turned a few more pages to the definition of spur. Of course I found spur as a noun to mean “a pointed device secured to a rider’s heel and used to urge on a horse.” Spur as a verb means “to urge on with spurs or to incite to action or accelerated growth or development”.
Hmm, being gouged with a sharp pointy device doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it? I remember a few sharp, pointy words directed my way that didn’t exactly inspire me to courage.
Words like: “Your little boy sure is wiggly in church. Does he ever sit still?’
“This casserole is…um…nutritious.” (from my son)
From a high school creative writing teacher, “Really, Laura, you can do better than this.” He then proceeded to give me a C minus on my assignment. C minus, next door to a D.
“Have you gained a little weight? That dress looks a bit tight.” GRRR!
At first these words certainly did not hearten my soul or inspire any greatness in me The judgment on my son’s church behavior made me defensive, “He’s only two, of course he’s wiggly!” The note from my teacher angered me; I had never received any grade lower than a B on a writing assignment. The assessment of my casserole was interpreted as code for “this casserole stinks.” The comment about my weight embarrassed me.
Curiously though, these negative sounding words, in an inverse way did encourage me.
While the first set of comments encouraged me to keep on doing what I was doing, the second set of comments forced me to face reality and encouraged me to change what I was doing.
I had to admit my son was not behaving well; I needed to step up my discipline. My low scoring teacher taught me to sharpen my writing skills. I learned more from him than any other teacher in my life. I threw out the recipe for the nutritious casserole and yes, I was getting fat!
Maybe those pointed comments, those seemingly discouraging words, are encouraging words in disguise. Maybe God sends spurs in my life to “incite me to action or accelerated growth.”
Have you been spurred lately? Be encouraged!
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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