When I look at the word encouragement, I see “courage” buried within: enCOURAGEment.
I like to think of encouragement as a direct communication from the heart—a purposeful message that honors and supports courage. Since having courage means feeling the fear and doing it anyway, encouragement turns out to be one of the most fundamental and valuable tools available for moving through fear.
We all need encouragement, especially when we’re experiencing one of those proverbial dark nights of the soul. When hope, joy, love— or any other positive emotion— appears lost or unavailable, encouragement moves us one step closer toward a higher vibration, and ignites the possibility of inspiration by validating our underlying faith.
Encouragement is External and Reflexive
Encouragement is both external and reflexive in nature. It’s external because, depending on the depth of the darkness we’re experiencing, we may not be able to generate courage from within ourselves. When I receive encouragement from some external source, it helps me know I’m on the right track, and keeps me from collapsing under the weight of my collective fears. Over the years, I’ve learned to set myself up for encouragement success by surrounding myself with things (and people!) that will encourage me when I need a gentle reminder. The resulting confidence and support helps me move through my fears with greater ease.
Encouragement is reflexive, too. Often, the best way to receive encouragement for ourselves is to give it to others. Giving the gift of encouragement benefits both parties: The recipient is encouraged AND the positive energy of the offering comes back to the giver, multiplied. Offering encouragement to others is like giving a big spiritual hug that aligns both parties with positive energy.
Forms of Encouragement
Encouragement can manifest in many forms: a heartfelt (physical or spiritual) hug; a handshake with an extra squeeze; the sudden appearance of a thing of beauty; a warm smile from a stranger; a kind word when it’s needed most.
Words are especially powerful forms of encouragement because they carry the energy of our thoughts, are durable in written form, and when shared at the right time, can penetrate directly into that deep pit within, and shine light into the darkness. Encouragement often shows up in our lives as collections of pithy quotes and sayings from famous people. And, have you ever noticed how encouragement is a huge, stand-alone, greeting card category? As a matter of fact, sending a card (even to yourself!) is a great way to offer encouragement. Here is one simple example:
What are some other ways of practicing encouragement? Thinking of encouragement as a spiritual hug reminds me of an important healing lesson Angeles Arrien refers to as “extending the arms of love.” Arrien’s four arms of love (acknowledgement, acceptance, validation and gratitude) form the foundation of my own personal practice of encouragement. Here are some fun and easy ways to begin practicing encouragement:
- Send a greeting card (to yourself or someone else)
- Tell someone how a special skill they possess makes the world a better place
- Celebrate milestones and accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem (This applies to your own milestones and accomplishments as well as those of others)
- Acknowledge a character quality you admire in someone close to you
- Thank someone for a specific impact he or she has had on your life
- Compliment someone’s appearance (in a socially appropriate way, of course)
- Focus your prayers and energy on holding space for hope and dignity
Encouragement, whether given or received, creates an energetic alignment with the Divine and honors the courage within. When you practice encouragement, you only need to remember one thing: Fear cannot withstand the force of a spiritual hug.
What encourages you? How have you encouraged others? What is one thing you can do today to encourage someone?
This post was part of the Kaleidoscope of Creative Connections focused on Encouragement. Dive into more heart-centred writings from the amazing souls who collaborated in the creation of KCC – April 2014.