Merriam-Webster defines discouragement as “a feeling of having lost hope or confidence.” I was experiencing a bit of discouragement this morning, so I decided to write about it to make myself feel a little better.
“Feel” is the key word here. I was thinking about how I felt, and told myself I would get over the feeling soon. I was happy to read that discouragement was, indeed, a mere feeling. Downer emotions can be overcome—they can eventually go away.
How do you feel?
The reasons for my own personal discouragement are not important. As occasionally happens to everyone, a few arbitrary circumstances in my life seemed to rise to the surface all at once. Add to that our recent remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001, and it was pretty easy to feel discouraged.
Oddly enough, a lot of good things have happened to me lately. I’ve had, what many might call, triumphs in my life. I shouldn’t be discouraged. Nevertheless, I had the feeling.
Emotions are funny things. I don’t have to tell you we can ride emotional roller coasters based on the tiniest of things—a poor night’s rest, a good dream, or something someone said (either positive or negative). The ability to remain on an even keel in life is, I suppose, a wonderful gift. The highs and lows will come, but a return to the center is always very settling.
Your discouragement, of course, doesn’t necessarily lie with you. Discouragement can arise from what we perceive as the misdeeds, foibles, or maladies of other people (particularly if they’re folks we love). In fact, discouragement might come from mere circumstances beyond (or even within) our control. Come to think of it, feeling discouraged can come quite easily.
I’m no psychologist, but I suppose constant discouragement can lead to despair. Extended times of despair can then develop into full-blown depression. None of us wants that. Most folks I know avoid depressed people like the plague. If your discouragement ever gets that bad, do yourself a favor and get some professional help.
For most of us, however, discouragement is a short-lived thing. We quickly realize that our feeling is temporary. Furthermore, it usually rises from something that’s not all that important (such as our favorite sports team riding a long losing streak).
“Rub it off.”
My Dad used to have a solution for all my ills. It didn’t matter what the circumstance. It could be a physical injury or an emotional breakdown. Regardless of what I was feeling, he used to tell me to “rub it off.”
Once, I got hit in the head with a rock thrown by a playmate (I was about eight years old at the time). I could feel the blood trickling down the back of my neck and ran crying to my parents. My Dad’s reaction was predictable. “Rub it off.”
While I don’t prescribe that treatment as much as my Father did, it’s often a good remedy. If you’re discouraged today, rub it off. It should be gone soon.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]