Encourage literally means to “give courage” to someone else. Discourage means “to subtract from someone else’s courage.” Whether we like it or not, we subtly or not so subtly encourage or discourage those closest to us all the time. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be known as an encourager than a discourager.
The first step to becoming an encourager is to discover the dreams of those you’re close to. Not your dreams for them, but what they want to do and be. This is particularly important as parents that we’re not living out our dreams through our children but helping them grasp their dreams. Here’s a great question to ask them: What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail? When you have their answer, get creative with ways to encourage and enable them to make their dream a reality.
Encouragement also requires you to understand your loved one’s fears. Encouragement is often about helping that person overcome their fears. But you have to understand what those fears are if you want to help them overcome them. How to tell? Ask them! “What is the one thing you’re most afraid of?” “What’s holding you back from reaching your dreams?”
Too easily, our encouragements can be colored by our self-interests. The true test of our love is when we can honestly rejoice when someone else is honored, wins the prize, or achieves their dreams. If you really love someone, you don’t focus on “Why didn’t that happen to me?” or “Why are they blessed and I’m not?” Instead, you will be the one who plans the celebration party and throws the confetti.