“I offer two pieces of wisdom,” he told me, “two commitments you can make: Never be discouraged and never be a discourager.” I have thought deeply about this counsel and have decided it is good—mostly good.
I say “mostly good” because there are times when we cannot help but be discouraged, times when we are deflated and demoralized, when we lose confidence or enthusiasm. After all, this world is messy and this life is difficult. We have friends that hurt us, bodies that fail us, minds that betray us. We wage war against fierce and persistent enemies and endure the toughest of circumstances. So there are times when discouragement is unavoidable and neither sinful nor wrong.
Similarly, there are times when we cannot help but be discouragers, times when we need to take the wind out of another person’s sails by speaking firmly or warning soberly. We may have to deliver difficult news or announce just consequences. There are times when, for a higher purpose, it falls to us to express disapproval and, in that way, cause someone else to become downcast or dispirited. So too, there are times when being a discourager is unavoidable and neither sinful nor wrong.
Yet it seems to me that being discouraged is far more often a choice we make as we respond to the vicissitudes of life and being a discourager is far more often a choice we make as we act sinfully instead of purely. Far more often both are more of a decision than an absolute necessity and more a matter of sinfulness than holiness.
We often prove a discouragement to others when we make ourselves a source of negative news rather than positive encouragement or when we spread information that is outright false or perhaps merely unnecessary. Sometimes in our interactions with others we focus on what is false, vile, and base rather than what is true, lovely, and worthy of praise. And then we can permit bad character to flourish rather than the fruit of the Spirit and evil words to leave our lips rather than those that build up. Then our sinfulness overflows from our hearts and manifests itself in words and deeds that hurt or hinder those we are called to love. In all of these ways, discouragement is a choice we make. It would do us good to determine, “Never be a discourager.”
We often grow discouraged when we allow sin to put down deep roots in our hearts rather than committing ourselves to proving good soil for the work of the Spirit. We often grow discouraged when we interpret God through our negative circumstances rather than interpreting our difficult circumstances in light of our glorious God. We often grow discouraged when we fail to remember that God is working all things for good and when we fail to meditate on the fact that this light, momentary affliction is preparing us for a glory far beyond our ability to comprehend. We often experience discouragement when we simply fail to be encouraged by the truths of God, the love of God, and the promises of God. It would do us good to determine, “Never be discouraged.”
“Never be discouraged and never be a discourager,” he told me. And I find myself agreeing with his counsel and, so far as it depends upon me, committing myself to it.