Eric used to love sharing his new ideas with me. He would come home from work and immediately start detailing his latest and greatest brainstorm; but, as he was unloading his exciting new idea, I was boiling on the inside. “Another new idea he’s going to want me to carry out? I can’t handle it! Too much pressure! I’m about to explode!” So, as an unconscious means to keep us from placing too many irons in the fire (and as a way to protect myself from being hurled miles outside of my comfort zone), I would immediately begin discouraging his proposals.
It took me a while to realize that while Eric is full of ideas, only a few of them actually move forward each year. However, when I present an idea, I’ve already thought about it and it’s basically a plan – not just one of many ideas which may happen. When Eric presents an idea, it’s just that – an idea, something to consider, a maybe. Once I realized this, I was able to listen to his ideas without hyperventilating – and I could even affirm them. ~smile~
Before I came to this conclusion, however, I remember the day my discouraging words hit the fan. We were traveling out of state to visit my parents when Eric started to talk about new idea number 4,367. Without batting an eye, I interrupted and immediately entered “problem spotter” mode (i.e., idea squasher mode). Instead of finishing his idea (which, again, he had just started), he responded, “Never mind. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” All those buckets of ice water I had thrown on his creative fires had finally reached his limit. I was not helping him, I was shutting him down (without even listening). I had done this so much that he no longer wanted to even share his visions and aspirations with me. It occurred to me that if I did not change my ways, it was going to seriously hinder our connection together.
Discouragement does just what it says – it removes (or reverses) courage. Discouraging messages rip inspiration, motivation, and courage away. If I had gone to Eric and said, “I want to lose 100 lbs. this year!” (which I did) and he had responded, “No, I think that’s unreasonable.” I probably would have hung my head and moved on from the idea. I’d likely still be 265 lbs. and still miserable in my own body. (I have since lost 50 pounds… halfway there!)
Consider these five ways discouragement affects our loved ones and relationships:
- Discouragement Drowns. My desire to start a weight-loss blog and lose 100 lbs. started as a tiny flame. Once I started the process, the flame grew. After a few pounds came off, the fire spread. Had Eric walked in and said, “Oh, you’ve lost twenty lbs. You can stop now. It’s going to get a lot harder from here on out,” it would have been as if he’d taken a bucket of water and drowned my flame. I could’ve eventually restarted the fire, but it would have taken a while for me to dry from the deluge before I could have started again.
- Discouragement Drives Down. While encourage literally means to give courage, discourage means to reverse, separate, or deprive of When I consider what it means to encourage someone, I picture an eagle soaring ever higher in the sky. The song Wind Beneath My Wings also comes to mind. So, if the act of encouraging pushes someone up, the act of discouraging pushes someone down. After being in a relationship with someone who continuously discouraged me, I likened the experience to a railroad spike being driven further and further into the ground. Have you ever tried to remove a railroad spike? No easy task. Discouraging someone is like driving them down. It pushes them away from their goals and dreams.
- Discouragement Clutters. Positivity has a way of clearing our minds and helping us organize. Alternatively, negative messages tend to play repeatedly like an annoying broken record, filling our minds with debris. As long as these dispiriting thoughts are swirling around in our brains, it is hard to create and carry out a successful plan. The truth cleanses our minds like a mop washing the floor. Once an office space is clean, it is much easier to work efficiently. Lies are like boxes of junk, stacks of paper, and disheveled clutter. They weigh us down and keep us from working at our full potential.
- Discouragement Disengages. Have you ever had a friend who constantly spoke negatively about anyone and anything – including you and your ambitions? Did you find yourself drawing closer to that friend or did you slowly, but surely, push him or her away? Constant discouragement causes rifts of separation to grow between friends and couples. It cuts off communication. People grow weary of having their dreams questioned and their hopes dashed. (People also grow weary of just listening to negative communication in general.)
- Discouragement Distances. It stands to reason that after discouragement disengages two people, they become emotionally distant with one another. Disengagement can be subtle. It can start with holding back information you would normally share. As distance grows, you may engage in little more than small talk. Finally, you may choose to only talk to each other when absolutely necessary. Many couples wake up one morning and realize they are married to a stranger.
When couples neither encourage nor discourage each other, their relationship still suffers. It seems like their connection would remain constant since nothing is going in or coming out, but that’s not how it works. Relationships need consistent watering. Discouragement not only keeps water from flowing in, but it drains the moisture that’s already in the roots. It’s no wonder that a relationship filled with negativity would grow dry and crumble.
How are you doing in this area with your relationship? Do you find yourself discouraging your sweetie or are you careful to fill him or her with positivity? I wish I was a constant source of life-giving water for Eric, but I fail miserably at times! (In fact, writing this post has been eye-opening for me!)
Check in with your sweetie this week. Ask him or her how you’re doing (and explicitly tell them they have the freedom to be honest – and then make sure to not hold anything they may criticize in anger – just take it and consider if what they are saying is true, even if you do not like hearing it). You may be discouraging him or her without even realizing it. Knowledge is power and you can take steps to change your outgoing messages. ~smile~ In fact, I think I’ll be asking Eric tonight what I can do to improve!
Are you watering or draining your relationship?