COURAGE, THE BEST “EN”—PUT
Hearts wither, almost from the onset. I’ve always liked to think of them as innately strong and resilient. If nurtured properly, if vested in right thinking and conviction, IF rooted in the soil of faith-based enablement, then yes. They are strong. But, left to the devices of human nature and gravity, hearts are prone to the weakest and easiest course—doubt, fear and hesitation.
This is not to say that I am cynical about people. I believe in the valiant and irrepressible courage of the human heart. I love a line from that beautiful WWII novel, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. “… people need lift, too. People don’t get moving, they don’t soar, they don’t achieve great heights, without someone buoying them up.”
And just so. This is why one of the most critical, first steps of heart training is encouragement.
I love encouragement—both giving and receiving it. This has always been one of my baselines for thirty years in the classroom as well as parenting. Even the definition of the word is exquisite: to make strong, to hearten, to put courage into… to incite. Then, best description of all: to contribute to the growth of.
That is how I view the act of encouraging. Each time someone speaks a word to spur on another, that someone is literally contributing to the act itself as well as to the future of its proponent. Give a child a good word for what he’s attempting, and you’ve done a double good deed by building up the child and helping to achieve the deed. Give an adult a good word, and often that word is even more valuable. Maybe we’re all quick to assume that a child needs the help and an adult does not. How many bosses should pay attention to this truth? More, how many spouses?
So many of the people we see at such distance through the lens of media that we can’t affect in any way, but certainly all of us have a friend, a significant other, a child, and/or an employee. I love a video shared by our daughter a few days ago. Although her precious, young son is only a few months old, she’s already giving those crucial words:
Even harder to remember is that those “over” us, need the encouragement, too. When was the last time you encouraged your boss or your parent? It’s amazing what the simplest affirmation can do. A thank you note is even better, and, although it is sometimes a struggle to find something worthy of a back-pat, 99% of the time, we can sniff out some positive to applaud.
The only caveat to encouragement is this: if you can’t say something sincerely, don’t say it all. My husband confided only this morning that he keeps a mental balance sheet—he knows where he’s giving value and where he is not. If a compliment rings “true” he absorbs it and adds it to that value. Flattery he discards like the drivel it is.
Lastly, there is always that look in the mirror—what about you? What if no one is offering you that badly needed uplift? There is one reliable place that all of us can turn—God, having made us in His image, is certain of our worth and loves us for it. Although we need human support and affirmation, nothing man/woman/child can say outlasts nor outweighs what God states in the Bible about every single one of us, regardless of our state or mistake: [Hebrews 2:6-7] But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of him, a son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor.
[For other scriptures affirming all persons’ worth in God’s view, go here.]
Courage is one of the vital characteristics that every human being needs to get through a life of any description. If we can shore up a person’s heart by putting courage “en,” –to that heart, I challenge any reader to give me a reason why you would fail to do so. It may not always be easy, but it’s never too hard to cheer on those lives that touch yours.