I've just finished meeting with a friend I've started getting together with regularly because we share many of the same goals. We share what we've learned since the last time we met and where we are in meeting those goals. Some of us are wired to attempt great things on our own. I am not. I need at least one other person with whom I can openly share the process -- not only things learned, but frustrations, surprises, hopes and fears. After our meetings I come away feeling more optimistic and more empowered.
This is the essence of true encouragement. In our culture, much of what we call encouragement is superficial. True encouragement is not simply something that temporarily gives you warm fuzzies; it is what happens when courage is the result. Courage to face whatever is ahead.
Yes, it might be something as simple as "You look nice today" -- unless you don't really think that person looks nice today. True encouragement is sincere, which means it won't always give you warm fuzzies. I love the word sincere. It literally means "without wax". In ancient times, when pottery was used as part of the daily routine, a potter would coat a finished pot with a layer of wax to waterproof it and give it a longer life. But it also served to cover -- at least partially -- any blemishes in the clay craftsmanship. "Sin-cere" encouragement is raw honesty, but with a goal of building up the other person, not tearing him down.
I have another friend with whom I've had breakfast every Friday for 13 years. We've seen each other through thick and thin, and are completely free to be ourselves with each other. We've watched each other's children grow up, walked together through career changes, mountains and valleys -- and tried to offer (en)courage(ment) at every step.
Do you have someone like that in your life? If so, you are truly blessed.
True encouragement is what happens when courage to face what's ahead is the result.