Encouragement. It’s a nice word. We all like to get encouragement, and we’d probably all like to be better at offering it, too. But what, exactly, is it?
Webster’s 1828 dictionary (my favorite!) defines it as:
ENCOUR’AGEMENT, n. The act of giving courage, or confidence of success; incitement to action or to practice; incentive.
We ought never to neglect the encouragement of youth in generous deeds. The praise of good men serves as an encouragement of virtue and heroism.
1. That which serves to incite, support, promote or advance, as favor, countenance, rewards, profit.
I love the first part of the first sentence. The thing is, it should be an obvious understanding of the word, and yet it’s not! To en-courage is to give courage to someone. We don’t realize that’s what we’re doing when we say a kind word! Did you stop to think that saying a kind word to someone about their abilities, character, or actions actually gives them courage?
Courageous, a movie highlighting the lives of four men who are challenged to step up in their role as fathers, opens in theatres this weekend and I’ve read many positive reviews . We know we want our husbands and children to be courageous. Are we willing to figure out what it would take to help them get there?
When I’m frustrated with my family, I can assure you the last thing on my mind is speaking a kind word. Way too often, I’m selfish and judgmental. My natural tendency is to show how disappointed I am, and retreat into quiet anger. A really bad day can lead me to lash out in frustration, leaving teary little faces in my wake.
I hate those days.
Wouldn’t it be better to encourage?
I don’t know about you, but I need to work on this. If I want my children to live for God and be world-changers; if I want my husband to step into the role God wants him to play, I must work on this. I want to “incite, support, promote, and advance” godliness in my home! And I’ll bet you do, too.
So what must we do?
Our definition gives us a few clues. It says that “what serves to incite, support, promote, and advance” is “favor, countenance, rewards, and profit.”
Favor: the definition includes kind regard, friendly disposition, support, benevolence and grace. To wish success to, to regard with kindness.
Do we treat our family with kind regard? Do they feel that we favor them? Surely there will be disappointments. All the people in our lives are burdened with sin natures and are still in process–and always will be. Discipline–training our children–is necessary. Consider shaking it up once in awhile! Instead of a tongue-lashing, how about following up a child’s outburst with cookies and tea? I learned this lesson from my friend Sally Clarkson. “A soft answer turns away wrath …” Sometimes I find my family in a bad rut of grumpiness, arguing and general blechiness. An impromptu picnic in the front yard, trip to the park or movie night can really change the mood! I want home to be the place my husband and children know they are always welcome, wanted, and believed in. That means I must regard them with kindness.
Countenance: the form of the face, favor or kindness.
Am I showing a kind face to my family? This one is less familiar. It refers to the look on our faces, and I think it’s listed here because we recognize that when we’re angry with someone, we don’t want to look at them. When I’m aggravated, what I want to do is get away, and not let anyone see my face at all! That’s definitely a tendency that needs curbing. If our countenance is all about our faces, and we’re trying to encourage someone, we need to let them see us smiling! I know my children respond much more favorably to a smiling mama than a frowning one. Same goes for my husband. We need to ask the Lord to help our countenances show love and concern rather than disappointment and disapproval.
Rewards: Rewards may consist of money, goods, or any return of kindness or happiness.
Unfortunately, when our husbands or children do things *right,* they’re way less likely to get our attention and response than when they fail to meet our expectations. I’m asking the Lord to remind me to give a squeeze or a quarter or a “Good job!” to my children every time I notice them doing something really great. And for heaven’s sakes, how about just all the time anyway? If rewards are to be given as a “return of happiness,” surely I have lots of making up to do! My husband, too, suffers from my lack of effort in this area. Lord, help us be more aware and remember to tell them we recognize all they do for us!
Profit: any advantage or improvement. Obviously the most common thing to come to mind when we hear the word profit is to money. This word comes from the Latin pro and facio, which means “I do” and has the connotation of drive.
Profit, of course, is a lot like reward. But I think it refers more to a permanent advance rather than a temporary blessing. Do our husbands see profit in their efforts to be good dads and husbands? In other words, do we respond to those efforts? Or do they go unrecognized? Do we treat them like they’re still failing us at everything?This question is pinching me this morning. My tendency is to always carry around an awareness of what lacks; what has yet to be accomplished on the to-do list, rather than to acknowledge good when it happens. My disposition probably says, “Yes, you did one thing, but there are five hundred more on the list, so what does it matter?” Ouch.
Do our children see profit in their work? Are we treating them in accordance with the gains they’ve made in responsibility, or when they make spiritual advances in areas of character? Are we loosening the reins as they grow in maturity? Do they have some leeway in their schedules as we see they can handle it?
Okay, maybe not that much responsibility quite yet. He took that upon himself.
I’m looking forward to really focusing on this area this month. One thing’s for sure, I’ve got a lot of work to do. How about you? Is this easy for you, or difficult? What does God say about it when you ask?