I try to be very astute at observing others.  Latest observations bring me to a thought. Many people tend to think discouragingly.  OK, I know I’m pushing the bounds of grammar a bit here.  We don’t often make an adverb out of the words “encourage” or “discourage.”  But, it well describes what I’m seeing.  

People often tend to go negative and stay negative when facing disappointments and setbacks. Constant negative self-talk seemingly can lead to depression. Is estimated that roughly 30 million people in the United States struggle with depression to varying degrees. Numbers of missionaries and pastors struggle too.

Discourage, Discouraging, Discouragingly 

“I am discouraged,” is the dispirited soul’s cry. Recently, I overheard a conversation in Starbucks. As two were conversing a comment ensued, “My job, is, well, so discouraging right now.” Sitting in many a coffee shops, I tend overhear many such conversations.

For my wife it is quite maddening.  Often, she will look at me and say, “You’re listening to another conversation on the other side of the coffee shop. Aren’t you?” Roughly translated, “That means your astute hearing shows you’re not paying attention to me, again.” My reply often is, “It’s a fascinating what’s going on over there!”  And, as you can imagine, that excuse doesn’t work very well.

What does it mean to be discouraged?

What do we mean when we use the word “discouraged?” “Discourage” can be defined as, “To deprive one of hope, confidence, and or spirit.” Now, let’s let those words sink in a bit. Deprive implies to steal. The act of stealing requires an agent. We typically refer to that kind of agent or person as a thief.  And, what does this thief do? This thief absconds with one’s confidence and spirit.  

Thinking Discouragingly

Why do I get discouraged?  Why do you get discouraged? Is perhaps one possible reason we “get discouraged” due in part because we think discouragingly? Perhaps what discourages us is not so much the events in our lives, but rather the way we interpret those events. An Ancient King said, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Two people worked for the same company in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Both participated in buying their company’s stock through their payroll stock options. In sort of a competition, both acquired large amounts of company stock. One woman said, “I am now worth over two million dollars because of all the company stock I own!”  She spent over two hours sharing her confident view of her future. She was hopefully jubilant. Then the crash of 2008 happened. The company outsourced to another country.

Their company didn’t survive the Great Recession. Overnight the company stock crashed to penny stock value.  All value was wiped away. With that, both employees lost their entire retirements, which they invested totally in their company’s stock. And, eventually they both lost their jobs as the company closed.  

Encouragingly Thinking vs. Discouragingly Thinking

Employee Number One exclaimed, “All is lost!”  It became his mantra by which he lived life.  Within three years, he started to receive disability as he could no longer work. His diagnosis was a Major Mood Disorder. Unable to work, he dropped out of the work force, and to some degree out of life.

Employee Number Two immediately exclaimed, “What am I going to do now?” After the initial shock of her personal economic calamity, she devised a positive plan. While receiving unemployment benefits she found grant money for retraining in a pretty unusual discipline for a woman. With retraining openings for automotive repair, she enrolled. Over three years she mastered several disciplines in automotive mechanics and repair. She found financing to start her own business. Now thirty minutes south of the Twin Cities she enjoys her own business which provides well for her family.

Who Is This Thief? 

Don’t get me wrong. Discouragement is quite a natural emotion when facing adverse circumstances. And, for some it is a mental health issue requiring professional care. But, perhaps, just perhaps, for many of us, we live, function, and enable a discouraging mentality in ourselves.

In Psychology Today, University of California researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky states: “40 percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change.” I interpret that to mean that perhaps 40% of the time I am willfully surrendering my own happiness to someone else. The way I think and process my circumstances and surroundings seems to determine my level of fulfillment in life.

This thief is easily identifiable if one takes a little time to just look. In her blog, 7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People, Tamara Star notes that chronically unhappy people tend to consider their futures with worry and fear. This in turn leads to filling their daily regular conversations with gossip and complaints.   

Perhaps, one major step towards dealing with our discouragement is to begin making negative self-talk unwelcome in our hearts and minds. So, unwelcome, that eventually this resident moves out ceasing to visit any longer. Because, really, in the end, this friend is a foe. This impostor saboteur seeks to dismantle hope crushing our spirits and dispositions. For some of us it’s time to serve an eviction notice. 

Jesus knew and spoke of this two-thousand years ago when he warned: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Just My Thoughts – Don Mingo

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