Change the Course of a Life: Be an Encourager

There are plenty of completely legitimate reasons not to encourage someone.

Encouragement could lead them to some kind of disastrous failure, the kind from which people do not easily recover. Then I would feel responsible and guilty. And I’m not a big fan of feeling responsible for someone else’s downfall. I enjoy feeling guilty even less.

Or my encouragement might be the motivating factor that propels them toward some kind of wildly unforeseen success, the likes of which even I cannot imagine. But that would leave me feeling rather chagrined and perhaps even jealous. Chagrined I can deal with. Jealous? Not a big fan.

It’s so much easier to be the voice of reason. The mitigating factor. The one who tempers all fires.

It’s so much easier to ask, “But did you think about this?” or “Have you considered the worst case scenario?”

It’s so much easier to ask, “But have you thought of your family?” or “What will your parents think?”

It’s so much easier to discourage, because it is what our culture does: it grabs anyone straining towards excellence or ingenuity and it sucks them back into the comfortable mass of mediocrity.

* * * * *

By most standards, I have never been wildly successful at anything. At the age of 35, this is an awkward admission to make. I never started a business that made $1 million. I have never written a book that swept the nation. Or my own state. Or my own hometown.

In fact, hidden among the ongoing construction of my relatively meager existence are what some would see as colossal failures. Enormous amounts of debt. Businesses that never caught on. Starting over. And then starting over again.

Yet I do not see them as such. Where others see failure, or heartache, or disappointment, I now see potential foundations. Holes that to some look like gaping empty crevices have the perfect dimensions in which to pour the footers of my future.

* * * * *

The common denominator in any venture that has moved me forward has been the presence of encouragement. A stranger’s email regarding my writing. My dad’s excitement about our current cross-country trip. A friend’s note about something I did that made an impact.

Encouragement creates a path where before there was none.

Discouragers are everywhere. You can’t throw a Double Skinny White Chocolate Mocha in a Starbucks without hitting a discourager.

But encouragers are one in a million. Be an encourager.

9 Replies to “Change the Course of a Life: Be an Encourager”

  1. I considered posting this on Sunday but passed, and your post today prompted me to reconsider. At church I heard a story about Peter – the one where he’s sitting with some other disciples on the beach just before Jesus shows up unexpectedly and tells Peter three times to feed his sheep. When Peter says to the others, “I’m going fishing.” I immediately thought of your post about “going to look at”. Peter, having failed colossally in betraying his friend and mentor; having his expectations turned upside down, decides to go back to what he knows. He’s going to go fishing. But then Jesus shows up, and reminds Peter what he’s supposed to be doing – feeding sheep, not catching fish. The rest is history. I don’t pretend to know what that might mean for you, but I thought of you when I heard it, so I thought I would share it – perhaps it may be of some encouragement. I certainly have been appreciating your blog over the past month or so. Thanks.

    1. Brian, that’s a huge encouragement. I will be thinking quite a bit about your words today. There is always a pull to go back to what we know, even when it is in the opposite direction of where we should go.

  2. Encouragement is hard and awkward sometimes. Not that I am a discourager, but I don’t encourage enough. I always feel like I’m not saying the right words or saying them at the right time. However I suppose in this case, practice makes perfect. So practice it more often and see what happens.

  3. Love this, Shawn! I know how much your encouragement has meant to me. I try to do the same for others- being an encouraging person somehow translates to a sunnier outlook, at least a lot of the time.

  4. If all the discouragers hang out at Starbucks, where do we find the encouragers?

    You’re definitely 1 in a million and you’re life and family are encouraging without even saying a word. thank you for sharing it all with us!

    You know Barnabas walked a 3day journey to encourage Paul just before Paul went into ministry. (that’s from memory, facts may need checking!) … But imagine if he hadn’t. ….

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