I had a wee look at what encouragement means in the dictionary(as you do...) and there was a few definitions, but the one that I really liked was - "To inspire with courage, spirit or confidence". I really feel like this captures some of what encouragement really is about... because it's not just about saying some nice things to people for them to maybe say something nice to you... it's about something a lot deeper than that, it's about expressing truth to someone about the really awesome stuff that you see in them, and not only that but expressing it with weight and realism behind what you're saying to inspire courage with in them, to make them know that they are worth something and that they have a purpose.
I've thought a lot about encouragement and what that means because one of the biggest themes that carry throughout Pauls letters is the fact that we need to be encouraging each other. Hebrews 3:13 says "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness."
Encourage one another daily... wow, that's pretty radical?! Some of us may even think we're quite good at that, but do we just assume that people know how we feel about them rather than telling them? I Love my mum to bits, which i'm sure she knows because I always tell her when i'm on the phone or when I see her... but that's not the only thing I think about her - I love the way she can start up a conversation with a checkout cashier and it's like they've been friends for years, I love how caring and kind she is, I love the fact that she always has time for people but I don't think i've ever really told her that... so does she really know that's how I feel about her? probably not... Have I encouraged her? I doubt it.
I've also realised that i'm quite a sarcastic person and that means that I make fun out of situations and people a lot without meaning the words to go particularly deep. If i'm not telling my mum that I love how caring she is but I'm telling her in a funny way that "I can't believe you used to give us the wooden spoon when we were younger" (which she didn't - just to clarify) then is she going to know that she's a great mum or is she going to think that she's a bad one? She's probably going to think that she's a bad one because instead of encouraging her as well, i'm just assuming that she know's how I feel about her, then i'm saying funny, slightly negative things about her, so i'm not affirming her with words of truth but i'm actually giving her something bad to think about herself....
Encouraging words make such a MASSIVE difference. In the second part of the verse in Hebrews, Paul says "So that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness" - what does that mean? For me, when things have all come tumbling down on me and I feel like i'm in this pit of nothingness and start questioning my self worth, when someone i know, love and trust encourages me with words or scriptures it's like something clicks and I can see God and hope in those situations... not because they've just said stuff but because they've broken the lies that I've started to believe and question. They almost help to pave a way forward.
Don't ever doubt the power of encouragement - you might never know the effect that the words you say may have on someone, but believe me... they will definitely have an effect.
So why not try encouraging one person every day and see God bless you and move in that?