Because I have, on a number of occasions in my life, become discouraged, I felt a sting when I read one of Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s quotes the other day. He counseled in this manner:

“Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage.” [Deposition of a Disciple, Bookcraft Publishing.]  Ouch.

This is a level of courage I hadn’t adequately examined before.  As I set out to ponder over the importance of keeping that perfect brightness of hope [which would push out thoughts of discouragement whenever they try to enter my mind or heart] in sight, it gave me opportunity to think back over the decades of my mortal journey.  So far, there have been quite a few of them. Don’t ask… let’s just say I’m not considered an antique by some folks.

I recognized a number of stumbling blocks that may temporarily dim the light of personal courage, leaving us with a dark cloud of discouragement.  Here are a few:

  • If we are continually comparing ourselves to others, pulling the ‘short end of the stick’ for ourselves, we grow a feeling of inadequacy. Satan must dance at the simple ways we block our own progress until we get rid of this stumbling block.
  • Blending everything together. Emotions run high when we start to feel overwhelmed. The natural man’s process may be to kick into reactive mode, and glom all problems together. Little wonder we may feel discouraged! “Reasoning together’ [as the Lord counseled] is perfect advice. Sometimes that reasoning needs to be stepped up as we talk to ourselves, mentally sorting and filing so that we can move forward.
  • Forgetting the gift of repentance will delay our progress, for sure. Quoting Elder Neal A. Maxwell again, “Cleansing circumstances are to be welcomed even if the scrubbing is painful.” [A Wonderful Flood of Light, Bookcraft Publishing.]

Those circumstances may be heaven-sent, as a way of allowing us to scrub up and shine more brightly. That does require courage, but it discourages further dirt and strengthens us mightily!

On the other hand, there are a few simple ways to ‘fresh courage take’ as we grow past the obstacle of discouragement:

  • Be on the look-out for laughter. A sense of humor really is a blessing. When we’re feeling overwhelmed or under-prepared, [or any other negative, sad feeling] laughter is like a giant color burst of gladness that can lift our spirits. And yes, give us a bit of courage.
  • Get some sleep.  I’m not kidding about this one. When we start down a road of gloom, “I can’t do it”, “This is too much” or whatever, it saps us of energy. Simultaneously, it may rob us of the ability to sleep well.  Counting sheep or blessings, offering prayers, shutting down technology, or whatever else may help- go for it.  Better rest offers us a more clear mind, which helps in deterring discouragement!
  • Keep that gratitude list growing!  Have you ever gotten down on your knees to approach our Father in Heaven, simply to thank Him for all you have? If not, try it. You may be surprised at how hard it is to do that…without asking for anything. After a while, though, we may look forward to our little joyful times of sharing gratitude. When we complete those prayers, and get back up to move on with the day, it somehow feels more sun-shiney.
  • Read the scriptures.  There is safety, peace, guidance, and strength in them. There are examples fit for our here-and-now circumstances. There are layers of learning in the holy scriptures.  May we never be too tired or too discouraged to skip the gift of these letters from Home.
  • Seek to serve.  President Thomas S. Monson has given this counsel over and over again. It is, after all, how the Savior lived and taught.  Even those among us with debilitating illness or seemingly disgraceful circumstances – when serving others- may be the healthiest of all.  It’s all in the attitude.

I guess that’s the crux of the matter: attitude. Satan delights when we feel inadequate. The bottom line? We don’t have to. We can choose better. I think this is the point of Elder Maxwell’s words. When we determine to put harsh things behind us, forgive ourselves and others, look for positive and joyful things, and seek for the Holy Spirit to help us be more than we think we are, nothing will keep us down. That courage we need will always be there. And the sense of inadequacy will depart from us for good.

Vickey has taught Church youth & family programs for 25 years, and has written books, hundreds of columns, & created hundreds of songs – with the intent of growing goodness and pointing people to Christ. Visit her website at www.goodnessmatters.com