There are several definitions of the verb “encourage” in print and online dictionaries. These definitions include:  to “spur on”, to inspire with confidence, and to give hope or courage to another. When we encourage someone we contribute to the progress, growth, and healing of the other person. Webster’s dictionary emphasizes the concept of courage embedded in the word. “Encourage: to give courage to; to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope; to raise or to increase the confidence of; to animate; hearten; to incite; to help forward; the opposite of discourage.”


The act of encouraging is one of the most central and powerful actions a person can take to further the positive development of others.  Encouragement allows us to promote another person’s talents, positive qualities of character, and commitment to causes that improve the world and others’ lives.  Naturally, discouragement tends to generate the opposite results, lowering self-esteem and making it more difficult than it otherwise needs to be to actualize one’s visions, talents, and goals. It’s amazing to realize how many of us succeed in spite of discouragement.


Most of us have received a mixture of encouragement and discouragement throughout our lives. Whether we have received encouragement or been discouraged by others also influences whether or not we offer encouragement to our children, partners, and friends.  When other people give us confidence and courage to express our authentic selves and cultivate our gifts, the rewards are both internal and external.  Self-esteem and achievement in the world are usually strongly correlated.


It is never too late to benefit from encouragement—both giving and receiving encouragement have their own rewards and positive outcomes. Let’s discuss the role of encouragement in our lives.


  • How much encouragement have you received from others over the years?
  • Who or what have been the primary sources of encouragement in your life?
  • How do you define encouragement? Who in your life do you encourage?
  • What do you see as the relationship between encouragement and courage?
  • Most of us have had to overcome discouragement in our lives. How have you been able to do this? What ideas would you offer others based on your own successful experiences of overcoming discouragement?