Etymology of Encourage


Pastor Stovall Weems, the lead Pastor at Celebration Church, spoke to our staff this week. He made a side comment during his time with us that started to give me a holy haunting. He said when we encourage someone we are inspiring courage. We are en-couraging. It’s the truth. That’s the etymology of encourage. To inspire courage.

Well, that’s more the definition. But, I like saying etymology. Wikipedia says: encourage (from Old French encouragier, from en- “make, put in” + corage ‘courage’, from Vulgar Latin *coraticum, from cor “heart, daring”) + -ment

Obviously, we all sort of know that. It’s nice to give encouragement. Words of affirmation are part of the love languages. For every negative comment say 10 nice things. Right?We also have heard many times that our words are important. The choice of our words even more so. The motivation and intention of our words- well, now we are really going somewhere.

I do not believe that I have ever intentionally thought about inspiring courage with my words. Nor have I considered encouragement to be a moment of inspiring courage. I have thought of giving motivation. I have thought of supporting with empathy. I have given sincere understanding and love. I have prayed about giving good advice. I have listened with sincerity. I have given what I previously would categorize as encouragement when I saw it as the positivity, the rah-rah cheerleader talk. But, have I truly attempted to inspire courage through my words?

Because it changes my motivation of the encouragement. If I am in seeking to inspire courage, I’m not just trying to be positive or empathetic.

I’ve been under the leadership and management of some pretty amazing leaders and managers from my position at the church to my college days with the Southwestern company. I look back and realize the words that I have received in those positions were inspiring courage in me to help me move forward either in my daily routine of assisting them or my sales goals. But, I’m not sure they would say that they were purposefully giving me courage. I think maybe the process and the word encouragement was as mundane to them as it was previously to me.

So, if the end result might be the same, why am I making such a big deal about this little etymology lesson?

To me, it’s the intent of the language and the purposeful focus and message. Seeking to inspire courage.

Doesn’t it sound a bit noble? Doesn’t it sound like a cause? Like a call?Like you are actually doing something and not vainly chattering away with your contrived thoughts and motivational boo-ha?

Oh, wait! You mean our words are already to be weighed and tested? To speak life and peace? To be guarded and the well spring of our hearts?  Inspire courage with our words!

Swirling that one around in my mind a bit. And for some reason while this excitement of inspiring courage is swirling around in my mind, I keep running into the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard Oz and his banter over courage. Seems he keeps wanting to creep into this post. I realized that I sound a bit crazy right now, and I promise I’m not hearing voices or seeing things. But, the image of the Cowardly Lion holding his tail out of fear seems to adequately summarize my little didactic prose. I’ll stop myself before I digress too much. But, I’m gonna let the Cowardly Lion have a voice here for a second:

Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?


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