Encouragement isn’t easy sometimes. But it can be learned. And in order to learn how to do something, you must first do it really badly.

But let me encourage you (I hope). No matter what, don’t stop trying. It’s worth the effort.

Dis-encouragement is my word for encouragement gone wrong. They were really trying to help but ended up doing the opposite. I want to share a few examples here for instructional purposes.

Things Not To Do

Prayer is good, right? Everyone wants prayer when crisis happens. How could that be bad?

Well, as it turns out, some guidelines might help. Here’s one:

  • Don’t show up and pray for an extremely long time right before a mastectomy, taking up precious private time.
  • But if you do, don’t expand the prayer to include missionaries overseas, your own problems and the world in general.
  • But if you do that, don’t continue to pray while a fire alarm is going off and the nurses are evacuating the hospital.
  • But if you do, forgive me if I interrupt.

It’s kind of a long guideline, but this one could have saved us some problems.

Or how about this one?

  • Don’t call a cancer patient up and offer to pray, but only if they stop all medical treatment, in order for God to get the glory.
  • But if you do, don’t show up later and ask for prayer because your chemo is getting tough and you are worried.

Too specific? Maybe you’re right. That’s more of a complaint than a guideline.

How about this?

Good things, taken to extremes, can become dis-encouragement. Use some common sense. Place yourself squarely in the other person’s shoes and do your best. Most of the time encouragement turns out to be encouraging.

There, that’s about right. You see, it’s often a matter of degrees.

Prayer is good. But pray-ers are human. So are those being prayed for. And humans make mistakes. That’s OK. Please, don’t stop praying. Or encouraging.

Except for that fire alarm thing.

These examples are barely the beginning. There’s more but I’ll stop here. Don’t want to discourage you . . .