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Did you notice? A lot of people are discouraged these days. In this post I want to talk about some of the forms discouragement takes. I know this mostly through personal experience, but also from observing and relating with people. It’s amazing what you can learn when you open yourself up to the pain of those around you. Most discouragement seems to fit into one of three categories: inhibitors, oppressors, and saboteurs.
- Inhibitors. I see these as the external sources of discouragement keeping people from fulfilling their potential. Physical disabilities or unfortunate childhood events can weaken our ability to rise above the negative. Some people live with these struggles all their lives without finding resolution. People born into crushing poverty may define themselves by this condition and be unable to rise to a place of self-sustenance and self-respect. A physical handicap is a medical problem, yet their handicap is often perceived as encompassing their total person. They must live with this perception. The experience of becoming a disabled person is traumatic for the thousands of unfortunate individuals who are crippled and maimed in automobile accidents, work tragedies, or on the battlefield each year. Among the many consequences of such a life-changing experience may be having their opportunities for work become drastically limited.
- Oppressors. This refers to injustices pressed upon people by others. Racism, authoritarianism, and certain kinds of egalitarian social theories are systems of oppression that discourage the individual from rising above the masses. Women continue to report cases of gender discrimination at many levels in society. Members of minority ethnic groups may have experienced limited opportunities to develop their capabilities simply because of their race. These external oppressors are not just present in undemocratic societies; every society has them. They are often so subtle, however, that those who are not personally affected by them do not perceive them. Even churches can be oblivious to the barriers they present certain ethnic groups or cultures.
- Saboteurs. These forces inside us work against our best interests. They drive us to self-destructive behaviors and show themselves in substance abuse, sex addictions, or the lust for money and fame. They start with attitudes of self-pity, entitlement, and narcissism and eventually cause us to stumble in our development.
I can remember spending long hours counseling and pleading with an associate who had many talents but who had some critical character flaws. In the end, I came to the sad realization that, the world would likely never benefit from the gifts and talents of this man because his character would not allow for it.
While some people seem never to rise above the negative forces in their lives, others embrace the task of empowered transformation. This transformation begins with the renewal of our thinking but does not stop there; it proceeds to the testing (or practice) of our new learning; knowledge becomes life in a virtuous cycle of improvement.
What do you think? Have I missed the mark or do these categories of discouragement ring a bell with you too? What would you add? Where do you think transformation begins?