The Power of Encouragement

Twenty-second after Pentecost: Mark 10:46-52
By Hugh Farquhar

Did someone at some time encourage you in relation to a dream, an intention, or a plan of action? Did someone discourage you, responding negatively and shaking your confidence? These dynamics were present in Mark’s account of Jesus’ healing of Bartimaeus. We can observe them by paying attention to the two groups of bystanders in the story.

One of these groups discouraged Bartimaeus. The incident happened as Jesus and his disciples were leaving the city of Jericho. A large crowd followed them. Bartimaeus was begging at the side of the road. Obviously, he had heard of Jesus and of his power to heal. When he realized that Jesus was passing his way, he began shouting to get his attention.

Then, “Many sternly ordered him to be quiet,” They shouted words of discouragement. Who did he think he was, this good for nothing beggar? As if Jesus, an important teacher, would care a fig for him. They were so ready to quash his hopes.

The other group encouraged Bartimaeus. By this time Jesus had noticed him and called out to him. This group said to Bartimaeus, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” What a pick-me-up that must have been for a man who had known so much discouragement in his life. They gave him added incentive because Mark says that “throwing off his cloak he sprang up and came to Jesus.”

Discouraging words – encouraging words.

All of us need encouragement at times in their lives. Those who do that for us are our true friends. By encouraging us when we need it, they help us to take heart, to get going, take risks, pursue dreams, make decisions, and embrace change. Their positivity gives us self-esteem and confidence.

Sometimes people come into our lives who put us down. You know the put down phrases . . . all the ways of telling us to hush up and put our dreams on the shelf. Many feel the effects of being put down during their childhood and youth. Verbal put downs that regularly and consistently denigrate a child can be devastating in the long term. Such words can forever hurt. They can create deep wounds that consign people to sitting immobile on the sidelines of life with a profound sense of worthlessness and insecurity.

We choose which group we will join all the time in our interactions with others. The question is:  how do people experience us – as discouragers or encouragers? As those from whom they can expect  a put down if they speak up or as those by whom they can expect to be picked up and sent on their way with a spring in their step to act on their inner nudges?

Words yield power. A simple conversation can have profound consequences. Discouraging words can drag a person down and remain in the psyche years later. Encouraging words can lift a person so profoundly that years later they are remembered.

Are there ever situations when a discouraging word is appropriate? Of course there are. We’re not wanting to encourage someone to do something foolish or harmful. We need to bring wisdom to our responses.

But when it is appropriate, there is such power in encouraging words. They can change lives. They can make a person’s day.

Encourage others. The world has enough critics already.


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