Here’s what the word “Encourage” actually means…

The story below is very scary, but true. You can pour courage into others...

  • Jenna (not her real name) is married to a friend of mine. She took her kids to a large amusement park in Atlanta on one of the hottest days of the summer. It was the grand opening of a huge new ride! The local TV and radio stations had been telling of this day for months. The new ride was the star attraction of the park. The lines were never longer.

In a sea of sweating moms and whiny kids, Jenna and her kids had been moving up about an inch at a time. The heat was stifling, but their suffering was about to be worth it: they could now see the front of the line and they would be getting on the ride in the next five minutes.

But then the unimaginable happened. A big guy and his sons crowded right by the other people saying, “excuse me, excuse me” and they went right to the front of the line. Everyone was grumbling but know one was about to stand up to the guy. Jenna still doesn’t know why she did it; perhaps it was her exhaustion combined with exasperation, but she loudly said, “Excuse me sir, there is a line here! You’ll need to wait in line like everyone else.” He did not react well.

The large man spun around and headed right for her. His aggressive actions and angry look scared her to death. As he quickly came for her, instinctively, as a protective move, she put her arms down to protect her children and pull them behind her.

Strangely, just as he reached her, the large man suddenly stopped his aggressive behavior and he took a step back. He then said, “I’m sorry. You’re right. C’mon kids, lets go.”

With her heart still beating out of her chest, she turned to let him by. Then she looked behind her to check on the kids. At that moment she realized what had happened. When she was stepping back about a dozen other moms were stepping forward! She was surrounded by a large group of other sweaty moms! As she had taken a step back in fear, they had all taken a step forward as they were inspired by her courage. Courage is like that—it inspires others to greater actions!

The word “encourage” come from two French words: “en” (to put in or pour into) and “corage” (courage). When you encourage people, you literally “pour courage into them.” That’s truly what Jenna did. She encouraged others to stand up for what was right, because she was willing to go first.

Her small act of courage in the midst of her fear was the spark that called the others to action.

BOTTOM LINE: You have a big pitcher of courage! You can pour it into yourself and others. Don’t worry, it will never run dry! Think of one small area where you will take a stand this week. Take a step of courage—and don’t forget to pour some courage into others as well.

Dr. Rob

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  1. This is a powerful story. I wonder how many times employees have wanted to say something about an inappropriate use of power, but held back for fear of retaliation, never considering there may be people around who will back them up and encourage them as they deal with any consequences of stepping forward.

    I had a wise mentor once who told me 2 things related to this:
    1. Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
    2. Gossip is taking something to someone who can’t do anything about it. If you don’t at least attempt to have a conversation with the person who is causing your difficulty, you’re just spinning your wheels in gossip.

    Following these 2 principles, and writing out a script prior to difficult conversations, has helped me become empowered to step forward and ask for what I want. The results have led to new careers/positions, new responsibilities, and more respectful relationships.

    1. Susan,
      You dropped an excellent leadership bomb:
      “Following these 2 principles, and writing out a script prior to difficult conversations, has helped me become empowered to step forward and ask for what I want. The results have led to new careers/positions, new responsibilities, and more respectful relationships.”
      Wow, that is such great insight. Thank you so much for giving us insight that will help our courage.

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