It’s easy to sit on the side-lines and criticise, but it takes courage to get in the ring, risk a few knocks, and have a go.

I love this quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech “Citizenship in a Republic”. Delivered in Paris, on April 23, 1910 he said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again….”

Life is full of uncertainty and risk. If we spend our days waiting until we are perfect or until we are bulletproof before stepping up and having a go, then life will quickly pass us by. Relationships and opportunities for life will be missed while we wait for the perfect, non-existent, risk-free moment.

Ever tried something and had it fail? Of course, we all have – that’s how we grow. Yet it takes courage to get up off the ground and try again, and again, and again.

As a Church Leader I find myself back there time and time again, each time having to summon the courage (or find the faith) to risk getting it wrong (hard for a perfectionist!) or risk criticism for the sake of what I believe is right.

While I was reflecting on this I noticed that the word ‘encourage’ contains the word ‘courage’. Obvious, I know, but I’ve never spotted it before!

In fact, to ‘encourage’ someone is to give them courage. Likewise, to ‘discourage’ someone is to take their courage away. Simple; perhaps self-evident to you, but a revelation to me, and in my experience, so true!

With this in mind, and knowing how difficult life can be, let’s strive to be positive encouragers. People who encourage one another in the full sense of that word. And as we encourage each other, we will give one another the courage to move on, to grow, to thrive.

Whether that means giving a friend caught in the depths of depression the courage to get out of bed and face another day. Or whether it is encouraging those among us who have responsibility to lead our schools, our communities or our churches. Let’s be people who en-courage life, not dis-courage it.

Paul writing to the church in Thessalonica some 2000 years ago said “therefore encourage one another and build each other up… encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”

Remember, everyone is struggling with something. What a difference it makes if we choose to live by this mandate, as encouragers? Who do you know who needs more courage at the moment? Who can you encourage today? Call them, write to them, email them, bless them, en-courage them.

Grace and peace,

Charlie Ingram

(Photo Credit: S. Kahn, Flickr)

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