A few months ago I took a test that is designed to uncover spiritual gifts. The results revealed that my top two gifts are teaching and encouraging. While teaching was not a surprise, the gift encouraging was surprising to me. I’ve always considered myself as a bit cynical, skeptical, standoffish with a hint of pessimism. However, when I discussed this with a group of close friends, I found that I actually was a strong encourager. That was encouraging to hear, but I did not really believe them (go figure).

Know Thyself (Socrates): Why the conflict?
I decided to investigate this conflict. I noticed that most of the time I was very encouraging to folks around me. However, occasionally I was discouraging. This was most evident when I noticed my wife called me ‘Debbie Downer’ a couple times. As I analyzed what triggered her saying this, I learned a couple things about myself.

Counter-Gift: Here comes the rain again.
I learned that while I had the gift of encouragement, I also had a counter-gift of discouragement. When I am tired or stressed, I have a unique ability to rain on someone’s sunny day. This was most evident in regard to my wife. I’d be tired and irritable. She could be talking to me about something wonderful and I would rain all over it. This is not a good way to keep long loving relations with your wife, gentlemen.

Mirroring: Double-edged sword
I also learned that when I am tired or stressed, I have the ability to mirror someone’s discouragement and make it worse.

So, the gift of encouragement is not one-sided. It is more of a double-edged sword. It can be used for good and edifying purposes or for destructive purposes. It really comes down to the personality and attitude of the person wielding it.

Cure: Guard your mouth!

  • An ancient Proverb states, “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles.” (Prov. 21:23)
  • Another translation puts it this way; “If you keep your mouth shut, you will stay out of trouble.”
  • Momma’s translation puts it another way; “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!

I need to think before I speak. Its far better to keep my mouth shut when I’m tired, irritable, stressed or confronted by someone who has a spirit of discouragement. Our gifts can be used for the benefit of others or to their detriment. Being aware of this is essential. It’s a constant battle. Our world is flooded with discouragement and hopelessness without me adding to it.

I’d rather give someone a lift than crush their spirit.

What about you?