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Have You Really Thought About the Words Encourage and Discourage?

Two very common words in the English language are ‘encourage’ and ‘discourage’. The words are used quite often. However, have you ever stopped to really think about the meaning of the words? They actually have a lot more meaning than meets the eye.

Good parents usually encourage their kids in many ways. The kids might be encouraged to think for themselves, to read, to be helpful to others, to sing, to learn to cook, to be honest, or any number of other things. In fact, it is a very good thing when we give other adults encouragement, too. Virtually all of us have needed to be encouraged at one time or another.

In a like way, it is wise to discourage bad habits, selfishness, arrogance, or poor behavior.

Encourage literally means “to put courage in” and discourage means “to take courage away”. People might already be seeing that the two words have more meaning than most people think about when they are used. It gets better.

The root of both words is “courage”. Many people think they know the meaning of courage, but do they, really?

Courage originated from the Old French word, “corage”. Corage means ‘heart’ or ‘temper’. It should be noted that in this case, the reference to ‘heart’ means where the emotions come from. For this reason, if you tell someone to “take heart”, you are telling them to have courage.

What all of this means is that someone who has courage has a strong heart. They are filled with positive emotions that increase confidence. When you encourage someone, you are giving them positive feelings that are meant to increase their confidence.

Likewise, if you discourage someone, you are removing the positive feelings and remove the confidence. For example, people usually have bad habits because they associate something positive with the habit. If you discourage the habit, you are removing the positive feeling about the habit and basically removing the reason to continue doing it. Granted, it can be a difficult and time-consuming task, but that is the legitimate purpose of discouraging someone.

Whether you encourage or discourage someone, you are causing a change to take place in their heart. That change can be positive or negative, but you are going to their source of emotions and confidence. Each person owns their own emotions, but encouragement gives them the potential to have greater confidence.

That is pretty powerful, isn’t it? You are literally putting courage in or taking it out of someone.

All of this leads to another sobering thought. Every single one of us has an influence on every person we come in contact with, every day. The influence exists whether we are aware of it or not. In fact, it exists even when we don’t want it to. It is up to each of us to determine if that influence will be positive or negative.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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  1. As a retired teacher I remember many times when I would unexpectedly meet a student I had in a class years ago and be surprised that they remembered something I said long ago and had forgotten. I can also think of teachers I had myself who said encouraging things that they didn’t realize would have a great impact. We do have a greater impression upon people than we might realize.

    • That is very true. I still remember kindnesses and words of encouragement teachers gave me, even when they obviously didn’t realize that they were doing so. An uncle was one of them. He was both a teacher and a principal, though I never had him as either a teacher or a principal. I lived with his family for a time and learned many things from him. I loved one of the things he told me, too. “A good teacher knows that they are not just teaching their students, they are also learning from them.”

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